Miyazato eyes fifth win No 1 ranking
Miyazato shot a 6-under 66 on Friday for the first-round lead at the Safeway Classic at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club west of Portland.
Miyazato had a one-stroke lead on Teresa Lu of Taiwan and Jee Young Lee of South Korea.
Miyazato is in a five-way battle for the world’s top ranking. American Cristie Kerr is currently No. 1, followed by Miyazato, Jiyai Shin of South Korea, Suzann Pettersen of Norway and Yani Tseng of Taiwan.
“It’s really fun, really exciting because the top five players all represent different countries, so it’s really a good motivator for me,” Miyazato said.
In a changing of the guard since the retirement of Lorena Ochoa earlier this year, Miyazato, Kerr and Shin have traded the top ranking six times in the past three months.
“Even though it was just for two weeks, I was so very happy,” Miyazato said about her time on top. “I was happy because I experienced something that I never really experienced before, and so it will just be really good for my future as my career goes on.”
Miyazato has won four times on tour this season, something that has certainly given her confidence.
“But I’m still in the process and trying to learn something almost every day. So I don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the season, but I’m trying my best every week,” she said.
Also making a case for recognition this season is the 21-year-old Tseng, who won the Women’s British Open on Aug. 1, her second major victory of the season and third in three years. The Kraft Nabisco winner in April, Tseng made a 6-foot par putt on the final hole at Royal Birkdale for a one-stroke victory over Katherine Hull. She also won the 2008 LPGA Championship.
But Tseng shot a 3-over 75 in the first round.
Lu said the course was playing fast.
“Some of the holes you can, like the par-5s, you can almost reach the green. It’s quite interesting, like I go for the green and see how many birdies I can get, and possible eagle,” she said.
Lu was making her 10th start this year. Since joining the LPGA in 2006 she has yet to win, but she was encouraged by her score on Friday.
“Playing well one day doesn’t mean I can win the tournament, so I need to play aggressively the next couple of days to keep shooting a low number,” Lu said. “I think people are going to shoot low on these greens, so you have to keep going.”
South Korea’s Chella Choi, Taiwan’s Amy Hung, Japan’s Momoko Ueda and American Brittany Lincicome were two strokes off the lead with 4-under 68s. Veteran Juli Inkster joined a large group at 3 under.
M.J. Hur is the defending champion of the tournament nestled in farmland at the base of the Cascade Range about a 20-minute drive west of Portland. She won her first-ever title by beating Pettersen with a birdie on the second playoff hole.
Hur shot a 74 on Friday on the 6,546-yard Ghost Creek Course. It is the tournament’s second year on the rural course after 19 years at Columbia Edgewater County Club.
The top-ranked Kerr, who won the event in 2008 at Columbia Egdewater, shot a 70. Michelle Wie, looking for her second victory after taking last year’s Lorena Ochoa Invitational, was at even par going into Saturday’s second round.
Fan favorite Natalie Gulbis had to withdraw because of ongoing back trouble.
McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School
One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.
McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.
It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.
McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).
Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).
Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.
Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award
The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.
The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.
Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.
The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.
A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4
Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.
Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.
South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.
Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.
The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout
It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.
Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.
Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.
"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."
Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.
Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.