They may not be related, but Ai and Mika Miyazato will be looking to use a sisterhood of sorts to propel them and third-seeded Team Japan to glory at the inaugural International Crown later this month.
Ai Miyazato, a nine-time LPGA champion who has amassed more than $7.6 million in career earnings, is the most decorated member of Japan’s squad. The former world No. 1 will be looked upon for veteran leadership July 24-27 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md.
The 29-year-old held the world’s top ranking for a dozen weeks in 2010 and has 58 career top-10s, but has not won since 2012 and has seen her ranking slip consistently in recent years. A return to form at the International Crown would be a great boost for the Japanese, and Ai definitely has the potential to do just that.
Mika, 24, won the 2012 Safeway Classic and has banked more than $3 million in career earnings. None of her 23 career top-10s have come in 2014, but Mika has the game to be a dangerous player in Maryland.
Rikako Morita, a seven-time winner on the Japan LPGA, qualified for the event, but will not be able to compete due to a scheduling conflict. Shiho Oyama was the next player on the list, but she has chosen not to play, opening the door for 20-year-old Mamiko Higa.
Higa, who turned pro at age 17, had a huge 2013 season. She won an event on the Japan LPGA, finished tied for third at the Mizuno Classic and tied for seventh a the RICOH Women’s British Open at St. Andrews.
Higa is a product of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and has an abundance of talent that could surface inside the ropes in Maryland. Whether the youngster is able to handle the pressure of a big-time international event could be one of the keys to Japan’s fate.
Sakura Yokomine may not be a household name in the U.S., but the 28-year-old is a major force on the Japan LPGA. She has won 22 times on the LPGA’s sister tour and most recently showed her prowess by tying for seventh at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
The Japanese definitely have the potential to shine at Caves Valley, but whether that happens is one of the big question marks going into the four-day event. The golfing world will have that question answered when Japan takes on No. 6 Sweden on Thursday and seventh-seeded Chinese Taipei on Friday, and a coveted spot in the quarterfinals could go to the winner of Japan’s Saturday matchup against No. 2 South Korea.
Wild card teams with the potential to make a deep run like Japan are what will make the International Crown a dramatic spectacle once play begins.
This is the sixth of eight looks at the teams set to compete in the inaugural International Crown, July 24-27, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md. LPGA.com will continue to roll out these features every Friday leading up to the four-day event, so stay tuned for more in-depth descriptions of each four-member team.
Topics: International Crown