Teen Sensation Miyazato a Rising Star
After a fast start to her fledgling career, its not just wishful thinking.
Miyazato, who won the inaugural Womens World Cup of Golf at Fancourt in South Africa alongside playing partner Rui Kitada, is already a sporting icon in her homeland and everywhere she goes, there is a massive media contingent from the written press, radio and television. So much so that over half of the media centre at the ANZ Ladies Masters was occupied by the Japanese contingent and in addition, a crew of over 20 television staff arrived at Royal Pines to film a documentary on her meteoric rise to stardom.
And Miyazatos first appearance in Australia caused a distinct shortage of accommodation in Surfers Paradise as her compatriots flocked from the winter of Japan to the sunshine of the Gold Coast to see her compete against some of the worlds top golfers such as Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Karen Stupples and Rachel Hetherington.
Miyazato is, according to her manager Yuji Dave Otsuka, bigger than David Beckham in Japan and her face adorns many billboards across the country.
She has boosted the popularity of women's golf in the Land of the Rising Sun and such is and despite her diminutive 52 stature, she is metaphorically even bigger than Tiger Woods.
Last November when Woods won the Dunlop Phoenix tournament in Japan, Miyazato was winning on the Japan LPGA. The events went head-to-head and her TV ratings easily out-rated those of Woods.
She stars in many television adverts including one for Suntory, the beer and whisky distributors, one of her main sponsors. However, somewhat incongruously, it is not legal to drink in Japan until the age of 20.
Miyazato became a household name when she won her first pro tournament at the Miyagi Cup in 2003 as an amateur and then turned professional and won five more times in her rookie season on the LPGA Tour of Japan. She posted a total of 16 top-ten finishes and earned more than 115million Yen in 2004, making her the first sports teenager in Japan to pass that earnings milestone.
This year, Miyazato has already notched up the biggest win of her young career and is making plans to raid the coffers of the LPGA Tour as soon as she can. Thanks to her performances, she has been granted an exemption for the first womens major championship of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March.
The World Cup was my biggest win and Ill never forget that week. I have my card in Japan for this year, so Ill try for the LPGA in America in 2006, said Miyazato, who grew up in Higashison on the north side of Okinawa.
The LPGA is a very competitive tour and I think I might need to improve a little more. I want to be like Annika and I think about that a lot. Im not sure how long it will take me to get to be world number one and I think I will need to be lucky, too.
Despite her stardom, Miyazato says she can still walk the streets in her hometown of Okinawa and go shopping without being hassled by her adoring fans.
But sometimes, I need to wear a hat, she giggled.
And like most modern teenagers, she is a big fan of music and movies. But she confessed that she does not like Japanese music, preferring the rock sounds of American band Green Day.
Oh, and I really like Brad Pitt, she confessed. My favourite movie is Troy, its so cool.
Miyazato took up golf at the age of four, inspired by her father, Masuru, who is a golf instructor and her two elder brothers, Yusaku and Kiyoshi, who play on the Japanese men's tour.
Despite her lack of height, she has an excellent power to weight ratio as she consistently hits her drives over 250-yards and her lowest score as a professional is 63.
Not only does she have her eye on the World number one spot in years to come, she also wants to win a major championship, something that no Japanese female player has ever done.
With her ability and with the right support network around her, it would come as little surprise to anyone. When she does and wherever she goes next it might be worth building a new town to cope with the entourage she brings with her.
Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain
PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.
She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.
“I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.
Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.
“Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”
She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.
“I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”
Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.
“Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.
She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.
“They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”
Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.
While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.
“Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”
Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead
PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.
In fact, she named her “Mona.”
For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.
While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.
And that has her excited about this year.
Well, that and having a healthy back again.
“I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”
Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
“Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”
Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.
She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”
Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.
Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders
PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.
Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.
Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.
Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.
Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.
Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC
PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.
With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.
After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.
“I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”
It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.
Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.
“It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”
Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.
Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.
“Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”
Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).
Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.
“It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”
Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.
“This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”
Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.