Tue, Jul 24, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Miyazato nearing first LPGA win


Ai Miyazato of Japan reacts as she misses a putt on the 11th green during her final- round match against Lee Seon-hwa of South Korea at the Women's World Match Play Golf Championship at Wykagyl Country Club on Sunday in New Rochelle, New York.


Ai Miyazato moved within one match of her first LPGA Tour victory, beating Maria Hjorth 3 and 2 on Sunday in the semi-finals of the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

"It's a beautiful day," said Miyazato, the 22-year-old Japanese star seeded 12th in the 64-player event. "I just had fun. It was a great match."

Miyazato, a 14-time champion on the Japanese tour, but winless in 42 career LPGA Tour starts, faced No. 22 Lee Seon-hwa (22) in the afternoon final on the hilly, tree-lined Wykagyl Country Club course.

"I need to make birdies," Miyazato said.

Lee defeated No. 10 Kim Mi-hyun 2-up in an all-South Korean semi-final.

"Ai's a really good player," Lee said. "I'm just going to try to enjoy it."

Trying to become the 10th Japanese player to win on the LPGA Tour and the first since Akiko Fukushima in 1999, Miyazato took a 2-up lead with a par on the par-4 11th. After Hjorth cut the lead in half with a birdie on the par-4 12th, Miyazato took the par-4 14th and par-5 16th with pars to close out the tall Swede.

Miyazato got off to fast start, winning the par-4 third and fifth with pars to take a 2-up lead. Hjorth won the par-3 seventh with a par.

After opening victories over No. 53 Becky Morgan (5 and 4) and No. 21 Sherri Steinhauer (4 and 2), Miyazato beat No. 37 Christina Kim (2 and 1) and No. 61 Amy Hung (1-up) on Saturday to reach the semi-finals.

The 21-year-old Lee parred the par-4 fifth to pull even with Kim, then moved ahead with a birdie on the par-5 ninth. Lee won the 11th with a par and the 12th with a birdie to take a 3-up lead. After Kim won the par-3 13th and par-5 16th with pars, Lee ended the match with a birdie on the par-5 18th.

"I putted really well on the back nine," Lee said.

Lee won the final ShopRite LPGA Classic last year in New Jersey for her lone LPGA Tour title, closing with a 63, and was the rookie of the year. She also won a Futures Tour event two years ago in Albany.

The South Korean reached the quarter-finals with a 3-and-2 victory on Saturday over No. 35 Lindsey Wright after beating No. 43 Diana D'Alessio (1-up), No. 54 Janice Moodie (5 and 4) and No. 27 Laura Davies (2 and 1) in the first three rounds.

The champion will receive US$500,000 from the US$2 million purse. The runner-up will get US$300,000, third place is worth US$200,000 and fourth place is worth US$150,000.

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