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LPGA: Ai Miyazato Medalist at Q-School


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By Stacy Solomon via TheSandTrap.com
Click for Article>>>Here

Ai Miyazato posts a runaway win at LPGA Q-School. Watch out Paula Creamer and the rest of the LPGA Tour, Miyazato is the new rookie in town!

Twenty-year-old Ai Miyazato delivered a one-two punch this weekend at LPGA Q-School with a wire-to-wire victory against challengers who seemed to fade away as the tournament progressed.

With a lead steadily growing from earlier rounds, Miyazato breezed through her fifth and final eighteen holes while the rest of the pack struggled to gain ground. With only twenty-four tour exemptions on the line, the rest of the ladies were clamoring for either one of those remaining twenty-three spots or even one of the thirty-five conditional status positions. Anything is better than being sent back to the minors.

And while the others were struggling for their place on the 2006 LPGA Tour, Japanese sensation Miyazato smiled and said, "I'm a little surprised it was this easy, but I'm very satisfied."

First round action had both Morgan Pressel and Ai Miyazato tied for the lead each carding 6-under par 66's. While Miyazato sat atop the leaderboard, Pressel climbed up the board to share the top spot with birdies on five of her final eight holes.

The next day put Miyazato alone in first place, carding 3-under 69 while Pressel had early difficulties. Morgan's opening holes were bogey, double-bogey and she wound up finishing with a 3-over 75 and sliding down the leaderboard to third place. Contender Lee Ann Walker-Cooper bolted into second place and never budged, finishing in a tie for second with Libby Smith.

Miyazato also controlled third round action and extended her lead in spite of poor early performance due to high winds. After composing herself, Ai caught fire and rallied back firing four birdies in six holes. Morgan Pressel slipped further down the leaderboard with her second consecutive 75.

Entering the final round the Japanese superstar went bogey-free and claimed a substantial twelve-stroke lead feeling pretty confident that she would finish strong and take medalist honors. All she needed was par and that is exactly what she delivered. Ai wound up finishing twelve strokes ahead of Lee Ann Walker-Cooper and Libby Smith but most importantly Miyazato claimed the biggest margin of victory since 1973 when Q-School was officially launched.

A three-putt bogey in the final round at the 18th hole was the only slip-up that showed Miyazato to be human. "I was trying to go for 20 under, but I guess I was overcome by the pressure," stated an ecstatic Miyazato.

Although Miyazato is well-known in Japan, she has yet to make a name for herself here in America, but that should change real soon. Ai came prepared for the Q-School challenge with words of wisdom from last year's winner. "I was told by Paula Creamer when I was in Japan that I need to finish first, so I think I do want to win," said Miyazato thinking of the Pink Panther's 11-under charge which Ai crushed this year with her 17-under par rally.

Ai is no stranger to the sport. Golf is taken seriously in the Miyazato family. Brothers Yusaku and Kiyoshi already play golf on the Japan Men's Tour and 5-foot-2 inch Ai learned golf at a very early age from her professional golf instructor/father Masaru. She even won her first professional tournament as an amateur at the 2003 Miyagi Cup. She turned professional later that year. Her first full year as a professional golfer, Miyazato won five events in Japan and became the first teenager to win over $1 million.

After winning at Q-School, Miyazato was mobbed by both U.S. and Japanese reporters. Kate Golden who tied for sixth place with Morgan Pressel laughed as everyone tried to get close to the latest phenomenon from Japan. "We're over here," said Golden said as the press tromped all over the green after the fifth and final round. "You should see her in Japan. The media loves her. You can only dream of that kind of attention."

As for Morgan Pressel, she too has finished Q-School with exempt status. Two solid rounds of 71 and 70 placed the seventeen-year-old professional golfer into a tie for sixth place and has turned her into a card-carrying member on the LPGA tour. "It's a relief," said Pressel after finishing. "It's been a long week. It was hard work."

In other Q-School news, Brittany Lang struggled to finish with exempt status but found it wasn't that easy. With seven other players tied for the final three exempt spaces, a three-hole playoff dramatically led to Lang nailing her card by playing those holes in 1-under par. Erica Blasberg was eliminated but she had a dismal rookie year anyway finishing outside of the top-90 on the official money list.

Westchester County native Meghan Francella earned non-exempt status for 2006 and did alot better than Annika's sister Charlotta Sorenstam who was cut from the pack early in the competition.

Although this tournament would have been very exciting to watch, the LPGA again did not cover it so interested viewers were left out in the cold. I'm very disappointed about this because over the course of the year I learned alot about the golfers and the pressures of the sport. Playing golf at Q-School is the epitome of pressure and watching golfers compete under possibly the heaviest stress of their careers would have been eye-opening.

Pos Player Today Tot R1 R2 R3 R4 R5
1 Ai Miyazato E -17 66 69 70 66 72
T2 Lee Ann Walker-Cooper -1 -5 70 68 74 72 71
T2 Libby Smith -3 -5 75 70 73 68 69
T4 Katie Futcher +1 -4 71 72 69 71 73
T4 Brooke Tull -1 -4 73 70 72 70 71
T6 Kate Golden +2 -3 72 71 71 69 74
T6 Julieta Granada -2 -3 73 72 71 71 70
T6 Morgan Pressel -2 -3 66 75 75 71 70
T9 Na-Ri Kim -2 -2 76 70 74 68 70
T9 Shinobu Moromizato -2 -2 74 70 72 72 70

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I watched her play in Japan (on TV), she is just fun to watch. Great swing, terrific shortgame, and solid putting. Too bad she crumbled under the pressure in trying to reach 20 under. :) I hope we will eventually get to see Aichan and Shigeki play against a Woods/Wie pairing at the BigHorn.

 

beruo

 

btw, I think I have some pics of Ai's bag at home. I'll work on some scans unless TourSpec beats me to the punch.

:hi:
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