Its All in Ais Eyes

By Randall MellJune 24, 2010, 4:05 am
PITTSFORD, N.Y. – It’s all in her eyes.

Yes, you can see something special in the elegant tempo of Ai Miyazato’s golf swing and the terrific rhythm of her putting stroke, but the reason she’s ascended to No. 1 in the world in women’s golf is in those blazing brown eyes.

Katherine Hull saw it as she tried to run her down Sunday in the final round of the Shoprite LPGA Classic.

“I turned to my caddie Vern [Tess] and said 'look at her eyes',” Hull said. “She’s burning a hole in the back of the cup.

“The biggest difference I notice in her is how determined she looks. She’s so focused.”

Miyazato closed with a 7-under-par 64 to win for the fourth time this LPGA season. The victory vaulted her ahead of Jiyai Shin atop the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She’s off to a scorching start as she seeks to succeed Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa as this new era’s dominant player.

Two years ago, LPGA players couldn’t see this coming. The Japanese phenom who dominated her country’s tour and looked poised to do the same here after winning the LPGA Qualifying Tournament had lost her momentum and her confidence.

“She’s really coming into her own from a time where it seemed like she couldn’t make a putt or hit a fairway,” said Morgan Pressel, who joined the tour as a rookie with Miyazato. “I love her game. She’s very consistent, fairways and greens, and she’s a great putter. She makes everything.”

Ai Miyazato with ShopRite Trophy
Ai Miyazato won the ShopRite LPGA Classic last week and also captured the spot of No.1 Player in the World (Getty Images)
In ’06, Miyazato hit the LPGA with a media entourage that dwarfed anybody else's. Wherever Miyazato walked on the golf course, a parade of journalists followed.

“I first played with her in Australia five years ago,” Hull said. “She was like a movie star. I’d never seen anything like it.”

At just 5 feet 2 and not likely more than 105 pounds, Miyazato’s potential was at odds with her diminutive physical stature. She was a giant talent when she came to the United States.

A giant burden came with her.

“She came with a country’s expectations on her,” Hall of Famer Beth Daniel said. “She had a lot of pressure on her, and it’s an adjustment coming over here from Japan.”

Miyazato was winless on the LPGA her first two seasons but finished respectably on the money list, 22nd her rookie season and 17th the next year. Feeling pressure to make something happen, she tried to change her swing, seeking to add power. That led to a major plummet to 46th on the money list.

“She lost everything,” said Reiko Takekawa of the Kyodo News Service, who’s covered Miyazato since she won the LPGA qualifying tournament. “She’s come back, but there was a fear she would never get it back.”

Miyazato, 25, got it back returning to the swing that created all the excitement in Japan. She rebuilt her once fabulous short game. She also sought out the help of Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott and their Vision 54 program, billed as a philosophy of life as much as it is a mental tool for golf.

“I believe in myself and my game right now, and I feel like no matter what the situation is or the pressure is, I feel like I can play my game right now,” Miyazato said.

Her game doesn’t seem suited to domination. She isn’t the power player that Sorenstam and Ochoa were. She’s got middle-of-the-pack power, ranking 105th in driving distance (243.7 yards per drive). She crushes challengers, though, with her precision, her driving accuracy, iron play and especially her short game.

“What she’s got right now is a ton of confidence,” Daniel said. “As a player, when you think the ball’s going in the hole, you can do anything.”

Vision 54 has helped with that. It’s based on the idea that it’s possible to birdie every hole, but it’s a philosophy that’s more about breaking barriers in the mind. It’s also about enjoying the path to 54.

It’s funny, though, because as much as Vision 54 seems to be about the pursuit of perfection, Miyazato’s success can be partly attributed to her acceptance of her failures.

“Mistakes happen in golf,” she says. “So I've learned to accept those misses and move on and always think positively.”

Miyazato’s confidence came back in full when she won the Evian Masters last summer for her first LPGA title.

“It’s like another start, another beginning of my career,” Miyazato said. “I’m enjoying the process and seeing what’s going to happen.”

When Miyazato won Sunday, assuring her ascension to No. 1, the news in Japan overshadowed fellow countryman Ryo Ishikawa’s run at the U.S. Open.

“Ryo said he wanted to be like Ai someday,” Takekawa said.

He wants those blazing eyes.

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm