Miyazato Still in Search of First LPGA Win

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Ladies European TourGOLD COAST, Australia -- Ai Miyazato was taking advantage of a rare Thursday off during a golf tournament, fine-tuning her game early on the practice range at Royal Pines.
 
With the usual dozens of photographers from her homeland around her, the Japanese star worked up and down her clubs as cameras clicked in her season debut. With rain washing out the first round of the Australian Ladies Masters, Miyazato had time for some extra practice Thursday.
 
When she signed a few autographs, they read 'Ai 54.'
 
The 22-year-old Miyazato said the signature was derived from coach Pia Nilsson, who says a birdie on every hole is possible, which would result in a score of 54 on a par-72 course.
 
'It's a good reminder of what is possible,' Miyazato said.
 
It's been a good but not great couple of years on the LPGA Tour for Miyazato, who arrived in the United States with so much promise in 2006 after winning the qualifying school tournament by a record 12 strokes.
 
After turning pro at the age 18 in 2003, Miyazato quickly became Japan's most recognizable and popular golfer, winning five events on the Japanese tour in 2004 and six more in 2005.
 
In America, she's been steady but not spectacular. In her first year in 2006, she had seven top-10 finishes in 21 events on the LPGA Tour, including a season-best tie for third at the LPGA Championship.
 
Last year, she was runner-up in the Women's World Match Play Championship, losing to South Korea's Seon Hwa Lee, once again had seven top-10s and went over the million-dollar mark in LPGA career earnings.
 
But still missing from her resume, despite 14 international victories, is a `W' on the LPGA Tour.
 
'I think I'm getting closer, but I had a bit of trouble with my driver at the end of last year,' Miyazato said. 'But I am still working on it and still have a chance this year.'
 
Miyazato, who now owns a house at Newport Beach, Calif., says the biggest adjustment she had to make was improving her English.
 
When told she spoke English much better now than two years ago, she said, 'Thank you, but I still need to practice.'
 
After a few weeks of practice in Arizona in December, she'll make her first start of the year at Royal Pines on Friday in an optimistic frame of mind, despite the rain shortening her first event to 54 holes.
 
'I obviously want to get out there and practice, but you can't beat the weather,' Miyazato said. 'But I'm looking forward to this week. I've learned a lot from my two years in America.'
 
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