Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tres Marias Championship Sunday: Ai Can't Believe It! Is This the Dawn of the Miyazato Era?

Ai Miyazato has made it a hat trick in 2010 on the LPGA and she did it in style by firing a 67 in the final round of the Tres Marias Championship to hold off Stacy Lewis (66) by 1 shot and Michelle Wie (68) by 2.

Miyazato made 4 birdies in a row as she made the turn and got to -20 with 4 holes to play, giving herself a cushion on both Lewis (whose bogey-free 31 on the front followed up by a birdie on the 10th got her to -16) and Wie (whose own bogey-free 31 on the front capped off by an eagle on the par-4 9th and who then recovered from an early double on the back with 2 straight birdies to remain at -17). She needed every bit of it, as she bogeyed the 15th for the 3rd day in a row and parred the 16th and 17th as Lewis birdied the tough par-5 18th to pull within 1 shot. With playing partner Wie 3 down thanks to her 3rd straight bogey on the 17th, Miyazato needed a par for the win--and she got it (while Wie got a birdie for her consolation prize).

The round of the day belonged to In-Kyung Kim, whose 64 matched Miyazato's Thursday total of 10 birdies and whose 4th-place finish guaranteed that compatriot Ji-Yai Shin, who had won earlier in the day on the JLPGA, would supplant Lorena Ochoa as the #1-ranked player in the world of women's golf. For her part, Ochoa bounced back from a couple of early bogeys with 4 birdies in a row as she made the turn and got to -13 with a birdie on the 15th. Unfortunately for her, she finished bogey-par-par, ending up 1 shot behind playing partner Na Yeon Choi, who bogeyed 18 to drop back to -13.

Others who shot the lights out today included Suzann Pettersen (65, -10), Kyeong Bae (65, -5), Karen Stupples (66, -10), and Meaghan Francella (66, -1). They made 68s by Amanda Blumenherst (-11 overall), Juli Inkster, Wendy Doolan, and Amy Hung (all -4) seem pretty pedestrian by comparison. As for 69s by Maria Hjorth (-11), Song-Hee Kim and Irene Cho (both -9), Amy Yang (-7), Silvia Cavalleri (-6), Jane Park, Azahara Munoz, and M.J. Hur (all -3), and Ji Young Oh (-1), well, they were pretty darn good numbers, but....

Speaking of pretty darn good numbers, Miyazato is now just under $7K shy of breaking the $600K barrier on the LPGA. She has 3 wins in 5 starts, leads Ya Ni Tseng by 12 points in the Player of the Year race, is .02 strokes off the scoring average lead held by Suzann Pettersen and Song-Hee Kim, and has climbed back into the top 10 in birdies (averaging 3.89 per round). Let's see how she handles jet lag the next few weeks, as she jets back to Japan for the JLPGA's 1st major, the Salonpas Cup, and then returns to the States for the Bell Micro Classic and the Sybase Match Play Championship. If she plays well in that stretch, she could pass Shin and become the next #1 player in the world of women's golf. Should be fun to watch!

[Update 1 (8:48 pm): Beth Ann Baldry does a great job on Lorena's last day as an LPGA regular.]

[Update 2 (11:36 pm): Check out Hound Dog with the play-by-play and Sal Johnson and Bill Jempty with the color commentary on Ai-sama's win. And don't miss The Squire's capsules on wins by Ji-Yai Shin on the JLPGA and Paola Moreno on the Futures Tour, as well as Ai-sama on the LPGA.]

[Update 3 (5/3/10, 1:44 pm): Here's LPGA Fan's montage:

Very moving!]

[Update 4 (1:51 am): Here's one tidbit from the notes and interviews page:

AI MIYAZATO: I have many memories with Lorena. I've learned so many things from her, her passion, what she did for her country. She's not only a good player, she's a really good person outside of the golf course, so that means a lot to me. Not many people can do that. (Through translator): I also think that she is probably the only person who is strong but also gentle. I also feel that personality-wise, we're pretty similar, so I want to have a career just like her.

Hopefully longer, right, Ai-sama?]

[Update 5 (2:22 am): ESPN Deportes has a great shot of Ai Miyazato's winning putt! Wait for it--it's at the very end of their goodbye to Lorena. Little side-door action there....]


tim said...

A seismic w/end for golf? Ji-Yai goes #1 (any thoughts of the significance of her doing that BEFORE Lorena's non-playing took her down the rankings?), Ai-chan franks her place in the uber-elite (if I weren't so humble I would stick "I told you so" x2 in here... ;-P), McIlroy wins his first on the PGA Tour, Ishikawa breaks the JGTO's 18-hole record... and Tiger.

tim said...

The only thing wrong with all of this is that you didn't win the Pak Picker, despite your automatic No 1 selection coming up trumps!

The Constructivist said...

Oh mannn! Well, it happened before. I'll take it any day of the week (althouh I guess it'll usually happen on a Sunday!)....

tim said...

Except on the KLPGA!!! :-)