Japan native Mika Miyazato shot a bogey-free 6-under 65 to take the first-round lead at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G. The 23-year-old returns to the Pinnacle Country Club as a Rolex First-Time Winner at last year’s Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola, but her previous career-best finish had been a tie for second in Northwest Arkansas.
Miyazato was tied for the lead along with Spain’s Azahara Munoz on the final day at last year’s event, but fellow Japan native Ai Miyazato staved off a playoff when she sunk a birdie putt on the final hole to take the win.
Miyazato, who is looking to notch her second top-10 finish of the season, says her short-game and work around the greens was her key to scoring low today.
“I'm not long hitter, but I'm hitting pretty good the second shot,” said Miyazato. “So I can do that pretty close to the pin.
“But like yesterday, I working hard on short putt, like 3 feet, 6 feet, 9 feet because I change the putter like Bahamas week. So I use like mallet type and I use now ping type. So real difference, so I need more confidence. So I practice a lot so far yesterday. So much confidence today.”
Miyazato finds herself in a good position to rally on her runner-up finish but Angela Stanford and So Yeon Ryu are within striking distance as they only sit one-stroke off Miyazato’s pace. Ryu and Stanford posted similar rounds on Friday with six birdies and one bogey on their scorecard. They both finished their rounds of 5-under 66 with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole.
Stanford says the Pinnacle Country Club was in perfect conditions for low-scoring today but expects some changes to the course tomorrow.
“It seems like the fairways are firm and fast, which is usually good for me, but the greens are still kind of receptive and I thought the pin placements were pretty, what's the word I'm looking for, accessible today,” said Stanford. “I imagine tomorrow they're going to be tougher.”
A group of 10 currently sit in third-place at 4-under including Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis, No. 3 Suzann Pettersen and No. 21 Azahara Munoz. Lewis got off to a slow and steady start and made the turn at even-par, but she lit up the greens on the back-nine with birdies on 11, 14, 16 and 18. The University of Arkansas alum says it was exactly the kind of start she needed to kick start the weekend rounds.
“You really have to stay patient on the golf course, that's the key,” said Lewis. “You can shoot a 1‑ or 2‑under and still win the tournament. So you've just got to stay patient, make a few more putts than I did today, but I'm moving in the right direction.”
Topics: Walmart NW Arkansas Championship