Golf

Miyazato takes lead at Evian

Mika Miyazato
Mika Miyazato of Japan shot a 6-under 65 Friday to take the lead at Evian.
GolfWeek BILL ZIMMERMAN
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EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France

Mika Miyazato took the first-round lead at the LPGA's fifth major, the Evian Championship, Friday in Evian-les-Bains, France, with a 6-under 65 that gave her a one-shot lead over Sandra Gal, Se Ri Pak and Suzann Pettersen.

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With action rained out Thursday, the Evian Championship is being cut to 54 holes in its first year as an official major championship of the LPGA.

Here are 5 Things to Know from Friday's first round of the Evian Championship:

1. FIFTH MAJOR, 54 HOLES: Having looked at the weather forecast for the next three days, the LPGA said, the tournament is being shortened to three rounds.

It's surely not ideal for the LPGA, which this year elevated the Evian to major-championship status — a decision that found the spotlight when Inbee Park won the year's first three majors.

The Evian will still feature a cut to the top 70 and ties after 36 holes.

Tomorrow calls for sun and a 64 percent chance of rain, according to accuweather.com, with cloudy conditions Sunday and Monday and a 71 and 55 percent chance of rain, respectively.

At least one pro agreed pretty strongly with the LPGA's call: Sophie Gustafson, who shot even par Friday, posted on her Twitter account, @SophieGustafson: "If you want to get home before Friday, be happy with the decision @lpga made today. Good call in a [bad] situation."

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2. MIYAZATO ON MOVE: Touring the front nine in 31, first-round leader Mika Miyazato birdied three of four holes just before making the turn, then birdied three more on the back nine against one bogey for a 6-under 65 and a one-shot lead.

Finishing her round with 25 putts, Miyazato said that was her best effort on the greens this year. She also cited her course management as her approach shots helped her round stand out.

"I think almost 17 greens in regulation today, so pretty good second shots," Miyazato said, mentioning later that thinking her way around the course and focusing on her game rather than the results was key.

Miyazato has two top-10 finishes this season (T-4 at Pure Silk Bahamas in May, third at Wal-Mart Northwest Arkansas in June) and one career LPGA victory (2012 Safeway Classic).

Having played the Evian four times previously, Miyazato said the changes were quite notable, including added length — amid challenging conditions no less. "I'm pretty surprised," she said.

3. THREE-WAY T-2: For Sandra Gal, Se Ri Pak and Suzann Pettersen, solid rounds of 66 left them just off Miyazato's lead pace.

Gal, who took the clubhouse lead when her round ended, said changes at Evian Masters Golf Club suited her game.

"I really did not play well here before," Gal said. "I was very happy to see that we made some changes. It's our fifth major now. I do think it fits me much better. It's a little bit longer, which suits me as a little bit of a longer hitter."

Pak agreed that length is more of a factor now. Short irons were a frequent club selection in the past, but 8-iron was the shortest club she recalled using on an approach shot Friday. The South Korean was more concerned with improving her putting of late. She credited her father for helping her straighten her upper body and her arms during a recent trip home.


"He actually saw me putt, and then he gave me tips about the gripping and the bending," she said. "My arms, he tells me to be a little more straight. I think that makes it more make sense. If you do that (wrong, it) looks like I'm using my hands too much."

Pettersen showed her trademark scoring consistency Friday, with seven birdies against two bogeys.

"It took forever to play. I'm just happy I maintained my concentration throughout the back nine," Pettersen said. "Two 3 putts, two bogeys. That last putt basically just jumped straight offline. The greens are definitely better in the morning, I would probably assume. They're fairly wet, and with all the footprints and everything, you need to have a few bounces going your way to make a few putts."

4. KO LOOMS LARGE AGAIN: Sixteen-year-old amateur Lydia Ko is among four players at 3 under, along with Karrie Webb, Michelle Wie and Lindsey Wright.

Despite the mark she's made on the game before her professional career has started, the New Zealander knows her record in majors needs work.

"I haven't played that great in the majors this year, so I really wanted to be there," Ko said. "My dad normally comes with me when we train like at home, and I could always see him like saying, Oh, it's all right."

"He was a little disappointed as well. Hopefully I won't make those doubles and triples I made in other tournaments."

Paired with Charley Hull, who shone at the Solheim Cup in Denver last month, Ko might pick up a thing or two about composure. But it was the Brit's putting posture that Ko said she studied for a little insight.

As far as her round went, Ko found it unusual that she gained ground on par 5s Friday – birdieing all four, while playing the rest of the course 1 over.

"I normally make my birdies everywhere apart from the par 5s, so today was like a whole different day for me," she said. "I kind of hit it close to the pins on the par 5s, which gave me more opportunities. (No.) 3 was a really good shot as well there, but I didn't hit — well, I hit one really good hybrid the par-3 14th.

"Other than that, I hit a lot of hybrids and 6-irons and stuff today. Especially with some of the slopes on the fairways, it's quite hard to hit it at the pin and go for it every single time."

5. SHORT SHOTS: Christina Kim, who has $4 million in career earnings yet missed the cut in seven of 16 starts this year, stands alone in fifth, two shots back of the lead after opening with a 67.

"I figured there was a lot at stake right now, whether it's people getting into the tournaments in Asia which are closing on Tuesday, followed by — you know, there are maybe a dozen players that might put into play whether or not they have to go to the final stage of Q-School because it's gone outside the top 100 in terms of priority," she said.

Inbee Park, who won the season's first three majors, opened with a 3-over-par 74.

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