Player Spotlight: Ai Miyazato

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Photo Credit: Stanley Chou/Getty Images

Al Miyazato of Japan signs autographs for the fans during the Sime Darby Pro-Am at the KLGCC Golf Course on October 21, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The 2010 season has been a break-through year for Japan's Ai Miyazato on the LPGA Tour. The player who once dominated women's golf on the Japan LPGA endured three winless seasons in the United States before posting 13 top-10 finishes in 2009, and winning her first event at the 2009 Evian Masters presented by Societe Generale. This year, Miyazato has lived up to her acclaimed billing, exploding with five wins and nine top-10 finishes on the U.S.-based LPGA Tour.

For that reason, Miyazato enters this week's LPGA Tour Championship ranked No. 6 in the Rolex Rankings. Throughout the year, she has tenaciously jumped in and out of No. 1 on the Rolex Rankings, emerging as a force on the LPGA Tour and a regular top contender for seasons to come.

It was Miyazato who wrestled the No. 1 position away from Jiyai Shin following her fourth season win at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, but she only held that spot for one week. The Japanese player fought back and nearly a month later, regained the No. 1 ranking, but again, fell behind Shin. With her fifth win at the Safeway Classic presented by Coca-Cola, Miyazato charged back to the top spot, which she occupied for nine consecutive weeks. But with a half-dozen serious contenders vying for the top ranking this season, Kerr and Shin eventually toppled Miyazato out of the top spot.

The eighth-year professional posted two top-10 finishes in major championships this year. She tied for third at the LPGA Championship presented by Wegmans and tied for ninth at the RICOH Women's British Open. She enters the LPGA Tour Championship ranked sixth on the LPGA's season money list with earnings of nearly $1.449 million.

Miyazato has averaged hitting 66 percent of her greens in regulation, but the strength of her game has been her ability to convert with the flat stick. She enters this week's final tournament tied with the LPGA's best greens in regulation putting average, averaging 1.74 putts per hole. If her putter is hot at Grand Cypress Golf Club this week, Miyazato could make one last stand at just the right time.

And she would like nothing more than to bookend her 2010 season with victories. Miyazato won the LPGA's first two events, the Honda PTT LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women's Championship. A win at the LPGA Tour Championship would not only sandwich her career-best LPGA season with a sixth title, but would also give her give her a formidable showing in this year's hotly contested Rolex Rankings' race.

The Rolex Rankings awards points based on the field strength and evaluate a player's performance over a rolling two-year period weighted in favor of the current year with emphasis on the most recent 13 weeks of competition. The LPGA Tour Championship will decide who will end the 2010 LPGA Tour season as the Rolex Rankings No. 1.

 

Topics: Miyazato, Ai

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