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.


Ai Miyazato wins HSBC Champions in Singapore

The #4 player in the world has won the first two LPGA tournaments of 2010 From AP-

Ai Miyazato won the HSBC Champions on Sunday to become the first LPGA Tour player in 44 years to sweep the first two events of a season, closing with 3-under 69 for a two-stroke victory over Cristie Kerr.Singapore HSBC Women's Champions Golf

Miyazato, the 24-year-old Japanese star who won the LPGA Thailand last week, took the lead with a birdie on the par-4 16th — a hole she played in 5 under for the week — and parred the final two holes to finish at 10 under on Tanah Merah’s Garden Course.

A 15-time winner on the Japanese tour, Miyazato earned $195,000 for her third career LPGA Tour victory — all outside North America. She won the Evian Masters last year in France for her first LPGA Tour title.

Marilynn Smith was last player to win the first two events in a season, accomplishing the feat in 1966.

Miyazato has come out blazing. Can she challenge for #1? I think so. Her winning streak is now on hold for a month. The next LPGA tournament begins March 25th in Carlsbad California.

For the 2nd week in a row, the LPGA had an exciting final round. Last week it was the Miyazato-Suzann Pettersen battle, this week 10 or so players fought it out on the back nine. If the LPGA can carry this over to the United States, the tour may benefit from Tiger Woods abscence from competitive golf. A win by Michelle Wie would help too. She’s off to a solid start in 2010.($32,090 in earnings, 18th on the money list)

Lorena Ochoa after opening with a 68, shot a 2nd round 79 and finished well back. Has Ochoa become a better version of the 2004 to pre 2006 LPGA Championship Se Ri Pak? Pak won two tournaments since pulling herself together but isn’t anything like the golfer she was from 1998 to 2003.

Also blogging on Miyazato’s win- The Constructivist at Mostly Harmless. He has a very detailed account of the back and forth battle for today’s tournament. He points out that since the HSBC began, the winner has gone on to be Player of the Year. Ochoa won both in 2008 and Ji Yai Shin in 2009. Miyazato has a head start on making three in a row.

Update- Hound Dog also blogged on the HSBC final round


Ai Miyazato wins the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand

The first LPGA tournament of 2010 is in the books. From AP-

Japanese star Ai Miyazato rallied to win the season-opening Honda PTT LPGA Thailand on Sunday, holing a birdie chip on the final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-stroke victory over Norway’s Suzann Pettersen.Thailand LPGA Golf

Miyazato, six strokes behind Pettersen after the third round, was 6 under in a six-hole stretch midway through the round, then birdied three of the last six holes to match the tournament record of 21 under set by Pettersen in October 2007.

Pettersen finished with a 70 Siam Country Club’s Old Course. She had a chance to force a playoff on the par-5 18th, but missed a 23-foot eagle try.

The 24-year-old Miyazato earned $195,000 for her second LPGA Tour title. She also won the Evian Masters last year in France and has 15 victories on the Japanese tour.

“I didn’t think of winning. I was just focused on my game and tried to do my best in the final round,” Miyazato said. “It was my lucky day as no matter what I did was right. This victory is a good start of the season for me.”

Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (69) was third, six strokes back at 15 under. Karrie Webb (67) and Cristie Kerr (70) followed at 13 under, and Laura Davies 65), Maria Hjorth (71), Momoko Ueda (72) and Song-Hee Kim (73) were 12 under.

Miyazato played some of the best golf on tour from June onward last year. She finished the year 3rd on the money list only behind Ji Yai Shin and Lorena Ochoa. She has the talent to be one of the best players on tour. When Miyazato joined the LPGA in 2006, big things were expected from her but she couldn’t win till last year. I predicted her to finish in the top 5 this year.(5th to be exact)

Once again Suzann Pettersen has been unable to close the deal on a Sunday. Among her poor finishes on the LPGA are the 2008 Wegmans, 2009 Safeway, 2008 Kapalua, and most notoriously the 2007 Kraft Nabisco. Pettersen still has 6 wins on tour but with the record I list above you can’t ever say she is a safe Sunday bet.

Update- Other bloggers writing on Miyazato’s win are The Constructivist at Mostly Harmless and Hound Dog.


Breakthrough- Ai Miyazato wins the Evian Masters

It was her first LPGA win. From AP-

Ai Miyazato of Japan has won the Evian Masters with a birdie on the first playoff hole, beating Sophie Gustafson of Sweden to clinch her first victory on the LPGA Tour.

Miyazato steadied herself and sank a putt from about 6 feet on Sunday after Gustafson had missed her birdie putt from the edge of the green.

Miyazato shot a 3-under 69 in the final round and Gustafson had a 2-under 70 as both finished at 14-under 274.

Gustafson could have won on the 18th hole when her eagle putt stopped right on the edge of the hole.

I am happy Ai won. One of my golf predictions has finally come true, if a little bit belatedly.

Miyazato came on the LPGA Tour in 2006 after dominating the JLPGA. As a result, much was expected from Ai. Her first three years on the LPGA were solid, but she couldn’t get that first elusive victory. The closest she came was a loss to Seon Hwa Lee in the finals of the 2007 HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship. Lee won the 2006 Rookie of the Year award many golf prognosticators predicted would go to Miyazato.

Of the last eight LPGA tournament winners, seven have come from Asia. Next week is the British Open, and I’ll predict the streak becomes eight out of nine. My pick for the last major of the 2009 LPGA season- In Kyung Kim. She finished tied for 3rd at the U.S. Open, tied for 8th at Evian, and is one of the top five money winners this year.

The Constructivist is more than ecstatic about Ai Miyazato’s victory in this blog post.


Another winless year for Ai Miyazato

Going into the 2006 LPGA year, Japan’s Ai Miyazato and Morgan Pressel got most of the mention when it came to who would be rookie of the year. As I noted earlier today, Seon Hwa Lee upstaged both Pressel and Miyazato. I never understood why Seon Hwa flew under golf writer’s radar screens. She was only the leading money winner on the Futures tour money list in 2005.

Pressel, Lee, and Miyazato all missed the cut today. Ai had one of today’s biggest turnarounds. She was -3 through 12 holes and then proceeded to play the last six holes in five over par. A double bogey five on the 17th eliminating Ai from contention.

Note- I saw some of Ai’s round today. She seems popular in the US, for today there was a big gallery following Ai and her playing partner. The other player was Natalie Gulbis. None of those golf fans were there to see golf’s calendar girl, right?

Ai has been tremendously successful in her native Japan. She won 11 JLPGA events in 2004 and 2005 alone. It just hasn’t translated into LPGA success yet. Fellow countrywoman Momoko Ueda managed to upstate Ai, but winning the Mizuno Classic just two weeks ago.

The last great Japanese golfer on the LPGA was Ayako Okamoto. There’s been a gap since, but I think Ai will reach the winner’s circle in 2008. I hope this prediction is better than my 2007 Women’s British Open prediction. Or why those fans were following Ai and Natalie today.

| | Permalink | Send TrackBack

Handicapping the ADT

The ADT tees it up this morning. Here is how I break down the 32 player field.

Top tier favorites- Suzann Pettersen, Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb

On past performance here and who is playing well this year, these are the five most likely

The Koreans or why they just don’t seem to play well at Trump International- Over the last five ADTs, Soo Yun Kang came the closest to winning the event in 2005 finishing second. Il Mi Chung did have a piece of the lead on the back nine last year but wilted.

There are 8 South Koreans in the field, plus two other players of Korean heritage(Angela Park and Christina Kim). I have a hard time seeing one of them winning, though based on their records this year, I can’t avoid making some of them second tier choices.

Second tier favorites- Se Ri Pak, Paula Creamer, Jeong Jang, Morgan Pressel, Laura Davies

Dark horses- These are the people I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they won Sunday even though they’ll hardly get a mention from others

Brittany Lincicome
Seon Hwa Lee
Angela Stanford
Jee Young Lee

Angela since the Jamie Farr has had only two non top 15 finishes. A missed cut and a T39th.

Jee Young is coming off a T6, T18 and a T9 in her last three outings. She has played well all year.

The in betweeners- Catorina Matthew, Natalie Gulbis, Mi Hyun Kim, Juli Inkster, Angela Stanford, Jee Young Lee, Stacy Prammanasudh, Angela Park, Maria Hjorth, Seon Hwa Lee

The Julieta Granada pick for 2007- Inbee Park. A rookie who didn’t win Rookie of Year, or win a tournament before the ADT. The only 2007 ADT entrant fitting Granada’s description before last year’s tournament is Inbee.

Then the rest- Reilley Rankin, Meaghan Francella, Sophie Gustafson, Shi Hyun Ahn, Laura Diaz, Sarah Lee, Nicole Castrale, Sherri Steinhauer,

People I’d be most surprised if they won this week- Christina Kim and Ai Miyazato. I like both these players but right now they don’t look to be on form.

My picks for the final eight- Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, Jee Young Lee, Seon Hwa Lee, Angela Stanford, Morgan Pressel, Brittany Lincicome, and Christie Kerr.


Two tied for the lead at The LPGA Championshp

From AP-

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.· Pat Hurst let everyone back into the LPGA Championship with a four-putt double bogey. Michelle Wie might be tied for the lead if not for missing a par putt from 18 inches.

Not even Annika Sorenstam was immune from a crazy, windsept Saturday at Bulle Rock with a two-shot penalty that sent her spiraling down the leaderboard and likely out of contention for a fourth straight title in this major. When the sun finally set on a long day filled with mistakes and blown putts, the LPGA Championship was up for grabs.

Hurst missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole and had to settle for an even-par 72. That left her tied for the lead with Japanese sensation Ai Miyazato, who lost a 54-hole lead a week ago trying to win for the first time on the LPGA Tour, and now gets another chance.

They were at 7-under 209, one shot ahead of a group that includes Wie.

The 16-year-old from Hawaii three-putted for bogey three times, none as shocking as the par-3 17th. Standing over what looked to be a tap-in for par, she caught the left edge of the cup and stood in the fading sunlight with a stunned look on her face. Wie rebounded with a 10-foot birdie on the final hole for a 1-under 71, still believing she can be golf’s youngest major champion.

Sorenstam birdied her first hole and marched confidently down the second fairway, ready to make a charge and silence anyone who has questioned her game over a seven-tournament drought. But she lifted a chunk of sod from a divot hole next to her ball, Karrie Webb had no choice but to call the penalty, and Sorenstam got a two-stroke penalty.

“It was a mistake I made,” Sorenstam said after stumbling to a 75, leaving her six shots behind with 21 players between her and the leaders. “It’s never too late, but things have to change.”

The way this major is shaping up, the leaderboard could change with every shot.

Shi Hyun Ahn and Mi-Hyun Kim, playing alongside Wie, each shot 71 and joined her one shot out of the lead. Mexican star Lorena Ochoa, the hottest player on the LPGA Tour with two victories and five second-place finishes, took a three-putt bogey on the 18th hole for a 71 but was still only two shots behind, along with Jee Young Lee and the resurgent Se Ri Pak.

Webb, the only player with a chance to win the Grand Slam this year, was rattled by having to call the penalty shot on Sorenstam and was sliding out of contention until she rallied to shoot 72, joining the group at 4-under 212.

Twenty players were within five shots of the lead.

Morgan Pressel of Boca Raton, the 18-year-old rookie and runner-up at last year’s U.S. Women’s Open, was two shots off the lead after a birdie on the second hole, but that was as good as it got. Tossing clubs in frustration, she collapsed to a 7-over 79 and finished the third round 10 shots out of the lead.

1- A crowded leaderboard with 13 golfers separated by 3 shots. The golf course is playing very difficult I consider 3 shots optimum range for making a comeback under these conditions.

It could be a dramatic final round. Some of the reasons for it I’ll state below. It could be anti-climatic as well. The 1995 Masters and 1986 Men’s US Open saw much more clogged up leaderboards. The later with a 9 way tie for the lead with 10 holes to go! Back nines on Major Championship Sundays have a way of sorting the contenders and pretenders out.

2- Michelle Wie is only one shot out of the lead. A win would be the biggest headline possible for this tournament. I watched yesterday’s play and Michelle was driving it very poorly. She can’t continue to do this and win.

3- The one I may be pulling for more than any is Se Ri Pak. Se Ri hasn’t won in 2 years and saw a dramatic drop off in her play since qualifying for the Hall of Fame in 2004. She sounded and looked confident in a TV interview yesterday. Much like the Se Ri of the past. A win here would be a big comeback and similiar to Karrie Webb’s triumph in 2006′s first major the Nabisco.

4- Talking about Karrie she’s three out going into today. She could win the first two legs of the grand slam.

5- What the @#%^! was Annika thinking yesterday? This article explains what went on better than AP did. She should have known the rules.

Some may note Annika got in a rules dispute with Paula Creamer at last year’s ADT. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. There is a well known cheat on the PGA tour. He is a former major championship winner even. I’ll just say NO ONE is above suspicion.

Why did calling a penalty on Annika rattle Karrie? She was doing what was right. More flakey AP reporting by Doug Ferguson. I’ve questioned some of his writing at my main blog.

6- Morgan Pressel needs to keep her emotions under control better. She is known for displaying them. Bad rounds happen. Time to move on.

7- Meena Lee who is 3 back needs a win to qualify for the US Open. Despite 2 wins since last July, Meena failed to file an entry for this year’s Open.

8- South Koreans could get register 7th tour win of the year so far. Besides Pak and Meena, Mi Hyun ‘Peanut’ Kim, Shi Hyun ‘Cinderella’ Ahn and Jee Young ‘Cinderella II’ Lee are in the top 13 players on the leaderboard. Michelle Wie is Korean-American, I’m not counting her.

A nation of 40 million people without a organized youth or college golf programs keeps rolling out LPGA winners.

9- Out of the leaders only Webb, Pak and Hurst(1998 Nabisco Champ) are former major champs. Other than Juli Inkster, Pat may be the best playing Mother on tour. She has two young children. Only about 30-40 LPGA players are Moms also.

10- Lorena Ochoa currently this year’s leading money winner is in good shape to make a run for her first major victory. She lost in a playoff to Webb earlier this year.

11- Ai Miyazato is playing in the last group for the 3rd time this year. Her two previous experiences were not good ones. She has a big following in Japan, over 100 journalists have come to cover her play in the US. The pressure on Ai this year must be immense. A win would certainly relieve it some.

12- I’ll say something nice about The Golf Channel. With a Nationwide event rained out, the channel will extend their coverage today. Coming on the air at 2:30 p.m. Guess what I’ll be watching today?

Update- With 10 holes to play Webb and Peanut are tied for the lead. Eight golfers are one back including Annika and Se Ri. This could be one incredible finish.

2nd Update- It’s a playoff. Webb vs Pak. The comeback gals.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.