Japan’s Ai Miyazato is back to defend her crown at the LPGA Tour’s Lotte Championship after beating Azahara Munoz and Meena Lee by four strokes to claim the inaugural title last year.
Miyazato birdied three of the final six holes to close with a two-under 70 and capture her eighth career LPGA Tour title.
South Korea’s Lee and Spain’s Munoz shared second place at the Ko Olina Golf Club. The 144 players in the field this week will compete for US$1.7 million in prize money, with the winner collecting US$225,000.
The Lotte Championship was one of two titles for Miyazato last year. This year, she has three top-25 finishes, including second place at the Founders Cup last month.
Also in the field is newly-crowned world No. 1 Park Inbee, of South Korea, who recently captured her second major title at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
The 24-year-old Park had to overtake Stacy Lewis, who is also competing this week as the Tour returns to the Aloha State for the event which began yesterday and runs until Saturday.
Lewis, who held No. 1 for four-consecutive weeks, is currently second and could reclaim the top ranking.
Park has been one of the most consistent players on the Tour for the past year. Last summer, she went through a 10-week stretch of top-10 finishes and this year, she started the season with a win at the LPGA Honda tournament in Thailand.
Her Kraft Nabisco win marked the 27th consecutive cut she has made.
Choi Na-yeon, of South Korea, and former, longtime world No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan are also in the hunt for No. 1.