Sports Outside the Beltway

Ai Miyazato wins the Tres Marias Championship

She has won three of the five LPGA tournaments played in 2010. From AP-

Ai Miyazato of Japan won her third tournament of the LPGA season, shooting a 6-under 67 on Sunday to win the Tres Marias Championship.Ai Miyazato2

The Japanese totaled 19-under 273 to finish a shot ahead of Stacy Lewis (66) of United States and two in front of Michelle Wie (68).

Miyazato shared the spotlight with No. 1-ranked Lorena Ochoa, who played the final round of her career before stepping into retirement to raise a family and focus on her charity foundation. Ochoa shot 71 to finish on 280. She has won this event three of the past four years.

Ochoa has held the No. 1 ranking since April 2007 but she will lose it when the rankings come out Monday, with Jiyai Shin of Taiwan taking over. Shin won a tour event in Japan on Sunday.

Check out The Constructivist’s post on Shin’s victory.

The tournament belonged to the Japanese from Okinawa, who won earlier this season in Thailand and Singapore.

Miyazato deserved to win but I wouldn’t say the tournament belonged to her. She had to beat back serious challenges from Michelle Wie and Stacy Lewis on Sunday.

Note- Miyazato has four LPGA wins but has yet to win in the United States. Her one win prior to this year was in France.

In accepting the winning trophy on the 18th green, Miyazato broke down crying as she thanked Ochoa. Ochoa, a few feet away, also rubbed tears from her eyes in bright sunlight on the mountainside course. Ochoa choose Miyazato as her playing partner for the first two rounds.

“I want to say thanks to Lorena,” Miyazato said. “I really appreciate what she did for the LPGA and what she did for her country here in Mexico.”

“She is one of my best friends,” Miyazato said, beginning to cry. “I’m going to miss her.”

As she spoke, thousands surrounding the green—standing high a hillside— broke into applause.

Michelle Ellis, president of the LPGA players association, stood in a long line of players who saluted Ochoa on the 18th green.

“She is going to be dearly missed by the players and all member of the LPGA family,” Ellis said, with Mexican mariachis playing as Ochoa left the green.

“I think her heart and her spirit out does her golf game by 1,000 yards.”

Ochoa won 27 tournaments—including two majors, has held the No. 1 ranking for three years and won the Player of the Year title four straight years.

Ochoa did not play the ten years required for automatic qualifying for the Hall of Fame. She will be voted in, and I’m betting it will take place the first year she is eligible.

Much has been written about the LPGA losing its star(Ochoa) but right now the tour has a tug of war for #1 in the world. Shin will be ranked 1st by Rolex tomorrow but Miyazato will be close behind her and Norway’s Suzann Pettersen and Taiwan’s Yani Tseng a close 3rd and 4th*. If Miyazato wins the Salonpas Cup, the first JLPGA major of 2010, she will take #1 from Shin. Four or more players battling for the top spot in women[s professional golf. Why do golf writers insist on saying the LPGA is hurt by its lack of a dominant player when so many are contending for #1?

Maybe they hate not being able to articles and columns that take adulation to extremes fear change and the unknown. I think Brent Kelley gets it right.

So we say goodbye to Lorena Ochoa today, we wish her well, we thank her for great golf, her humanity, her humility.

And we say hello to the future of golf.

I think there is plenty of excitement ahead for Women’s professional golf.

Also blogging on Miyazato’s win- Hound Dog, Sal Johnson, Stephanie Wei, and The Constructivist.

*- That is if Ochoa is taken down since she is retired. She may linger in the top 5 for a while otherwise.

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