Japan’s Ai Miyazato won the LPGA LOTTE Championship on Saturday for her eighth career LPGA Tour title, birdieing three of the last six holes for a 2-under 70 and a four-stroke victory.
Miyazato finished at 12-under 276 at wind-swept Ko Olina. She opened with rounds of 71, 65 and 70 to take a three-stroke lead in the final round.
Meena Lee, ahead early on the back nine and tied for the lead after a birdie on No. 15, had a 70 to tie for second with Azahara Munoz at 8 under. Munoz finished with a 71.
The whirlwind finish still had Miyazato a little flustered.
”I don’t know what happened,” said Miyazato, a 15-time winner on the Japan LPGA. ”I just focused on my game. I was pretty nervous toward the end because I know everyone is playing so well. I had to finish really strong.”
The 26-year-old Miyazato made a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 15th to break a tie with Lee. Lee, down one playing 18, then hit her approach into a bunker and three-putted from 30 feet for double bogey, ending her chances. Lee said she knew she needed to get it close on 18 to put pressure on Miyazato.
”But I was a little bit downwind,” Lee said about the shot that flew over the green and into the bunker. ”I tried to go for the pin and then I end up three-putting. I tried.”
Miyazato lost the lead with a bogey on the par-3 12th after her tee shot buried in a bunker, the second straight day she carded a 4 on the hole. But Lee dropped back moments later with a three-putt bogey at 14.
After Miyazato’s birdie at 15, she saved par from 10 feet at 16, then rolled in another birdie putt from 25 feet at 17 to wrap up her first victory since the Evian Masters last year in France.
”I just keep saying to myself just to be patient and no rush,” Miyazato said. ”I’ve been playing so well this year.”
Miyazato won after finishing second behind top-ranked Yani Tseng this year in Thailand and Phoenix. It was Miyazato’s fifth top-10 finish in six events, and her first victory in Hawaii in nine tries. It was also good to beat Tseng.
”It was very nice,” Miyazato said, then laughed. ”Honestly, she is so good. But, no, Yani has been playing really solid. It’s so inspiring that she’s playing so well. That’s why I’m here. We’re kind of inspiring each other.”
After her father gave her a putting tip following a poor finish at the Kraft Nabisco three weeks ago, the 5-foot-1 star needed only 53 putts in the last two rounds.
”I was disappointed about the Nabisco,” Miyazato said. ”But after Nabisco I worked hard and kind of said to myself just to keep going.”
Tseng, a three-time winner this year, overcame an ankle injury early in the final round to shoot a 74 and tie for 10th at 4 under. She has finished in the top 10 in all seven of her LPGA Tour starts this year.
”I didn’t play well today,” Tseng said. ”I didn’t give myself lots of chances to make birdie. I don’t know what happened. My distance was way off. Just not my day out there.”