Safeway Classic -- Final-round notes and interviews

Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Ghost Creek Course
North Plains, Ore.
Final-round notes and interviews
August 22, 2010

Final-round interviews: Ai Miyazato, -11, winner | Cristie Kerr, -9, T2

Final-round notes

Japan's Ai Miyazato shot a final-round, Even-par 72 to win the Safeway Classic presented by Coca-Cola at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club's Ghost Creek course outside Portland Sunday, her LPGA-best fifth victory of the year. Miyazato, No. 2 in the Rolex Rankings to start the week, held off No. 1 Cristie Kerr and Na Yeon Choi to win by two shots at 11-under 205. With this finish, Miyazato is projected to be the new No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings come Monday, dropping Kerr to No. 2.

Miyazato and Kerr traded blows for much of the back nine before Kerr, playing in the group ahead of Miyazato, dunked her approach shot on the closing 431-yard par-4 in the water just right of the green and the back-right pin. She dropped and got up and down for a bogey, but when Miyazato parred, she closed the door.

"I had a perfect club. I just didn't hit it." Kerr said. "I thought I played great. Hitting it in the water at the last hole was not indicative of my week. I had a chance. I forced her, put pressure on her so she didn't run away from the field. Unfortunately, the last five holes, I wasn't able to get a couple birdies to be able to pull ahead."

Ai won this battle, but the war's far from over: The race to No. 1 in the Rolex Rankings will remain hot for the foreseeable future. The top-four players entering the week all finished in the top-six at the Safeway Classic presented by Coca-Cola, ensuring more fireworks next week at the CN Canadian Women's Open.

"I think it's going to be back and forth again, because all the top-five players are just playing so good this year." Said Miyazato, her usual humility intact. "I don't really feel like I'm that far above everyone else, so that's why I think that the rankings will still keep on changing."

Now THAT'S consistency! Song-Hee Kim, who played in the final group but took herself out of contention with three bogeys in her last six holes, finished tied for fourth at 8-under. This is her 18th top-10 finish in her last 23 starts.

That too! Suzann Pettersen's tie for fourth this week marks her eighth top-five finish in 13 starts this season.

Who K? I K! Considering her start, In-Kyung Kim salvaged a pretty good tournament. She played her first nine holes Friday in 4-over before playing the next 63 in 11-under, finishing tied for sixth at 7-under. This is her fifth top-10 in her last six starts.

Happy Birthday! Brittany Lang celebrated her 25th birthday Sunday with a top-20. She had it to 3-under Sunday but stumbled on the way in to finish with an Even-par 72. Her 3-under total was good enough for T16.

The 17th hole: In addition to the Ghost Creek course playing five par-5s this week - including three in a row at Nos. eight-10 - the par-4 17th played just 230 yards with the tees all the way up Sunday. Although it didn't factor for the final groups, it did surrender two eagles Sunday - one by Pat Hurst, who also eagled the par-5 eighth, and Gloria Park.

Low rookie: This week, the honor belongs to Mina Harigae, who bookended her week with a 69 Friday and a 6-under 66 Sunday, the low round of the day by two shots. Harigae's 66 featured four birdies and an eagle on the par-5 eighth. The 66 is last year's Duramed Futures Tour Player of the Year's lowest round on the LPGA, the tie for eighth her best finish on the LPGA.

Of note: On holes three-nine today, Shanshan Feng didn't make a par. Instead, she went birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-eagle-birdie to make the turn in 4-under 33. She finished with a 3-under 69 to post at 3-under overall.

Final-round interviews: Ai Miyazato, -11, winner | Cristie Kerr, -9, T2

AI MIYAZATO

Q Your fifth win of the year, and you will now be -- according to our projections, you'll be number one again. Just talk about your feelings of being number one again.
AI MIYAZATO: I mean, it feels really good, but I also can't believe I won this week because I got really good feeling that I got into this week, but then, you know, trying to control myself out there. And then today, especially today was really a tough day. I was really nervous on the front nine and trying to catch up with myself. But after 9th hole, then I made birdie -- well, after the birdie on 9 it kind of gave me a good kick for the back nine, and so that really led me to the win today.

Q Did you know Cristie hit in the water?
AI MIYAZATO: I was guessing, because I didn't see it. So I saw that she made a, I don't know if it was bogey, but something. She made a putt so I thought it was a par.

Q Can you talk about the start and the two bogeys?
AI MIYAZATO: On No. 2, I hit the 5 iron and I missed the green and I couldn't get up and down. And 7, I missed the tee shot and the second shot going into the bunker, and, again, I couldn't get up and down.

Q And did you know where you stood in the tournament at that point?

AI MIYAZATO: Well, I watch the scoreboard like almost every time, so I knew where am I -- I played every hole knowing where I stood in the tournament.

Q And was there a point where you sort of said to yourself, you know, come on, go in, or something like that?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, even after the bogeys I knew that something good will happen if I stayed patient, and I felt like -- well, like I said, it gave me a good kick-start to the back 9 after the birdie on 9. So instead of looking at the scoreboard I felt like I could go and keep it going after the birdie on 9.

Q And can you just describe the birdie on 9, please?
AI MIYAZATO: 9, I hit the hybrid on second shot, and the second shot was 57 yards or something, 58, and birdie putt was four meter.

Q You get an awful lot of fans in Japan. Do you feel pressure at all playing for your country and do you consider yourself a role model?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, I get asked that question all the time, but I really don't feel any pressure no matter where I play, whether it's Japan or the U.S. But obviously I'm very thankful for the fans that cheered for me. And hopefully I can get many more fans over here in the U.S. too.

Q And one other. How important is being number one to you?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, my goal before the start of this year was to become player of the year, so I'm aiming towards that. And with the number one, everyone is so close up at the top, so I really don't know what's going to happen. But that is a good motivator for me.

Q With five victories this year, does that surprise you that you come into the year thinking let's win five or let's win one or two or what?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, I didn't expect that I can win like five times this year. But, like I said, I got really strong confidence from last year. And many things happened this year, being, one, Lorena retiring and, you know, some of the many things around me changing all the time so suddenly. But I think I could win five times this year because I kept my style of play.

Q And when you got to 11 under, did you feel like the way that things were going necessarily you'd have to make another birdie or two or did you think, okay, I can par it in and be okay, or -- the way things were going, nobody was really shooting low score.
AI MIYAZATO: Well, I really didn't think 11 under was enough, but maybe I was a little fortunate that there weren't that many low scores out there, and I also thought that 13 under I needed today.

Q Ai, how are you better as a player than when you first came to the U.S.?
AI MIYAZATO: That's a good question. I haven't think about that before. I would say my short game is so much improved than when I came to the U.S. Because, like, when I came on the tour like first couple years, I try to -- well, the first couple years I tried to get more distance off the tee, and as a result I didn't really work too much on my short game. But after that I worked harder on my short game and maybe that's why my game improved.

Q Did you actually get longer or did you just decide to play with your regular distance?
AI MIYAZATO: I actually did get longer because but it wasn't because I worked on anything special, it just happened to be -- happened to get longer. And on top of that, I worked really hard on my short game practice.

Q So you're number one. Do you think this is just going to keep going back and forth again, you know, two, three, four, five, however many players are going to be taking turns?
AI MIYAZATO: Well, I think it's going to be back and forth again. Because all the top five players are just playing so good this year. So I don't feel any -- I don't really feel like I'm that far above everyone else, so that's why I think that the rankings will still keep on changing.

Q And I'm curious who is sort of your idol in golf?
AI MIYAZATO: In golf?

Q Yeah. Your favorite players when you were younger.
AI MIYAZATO: Well, Annika, she's been my idol like since like seven years ago when I turned professional. So I think I'm here on tour because of what she did.

FLASH QUOTES FROM CRISTIE KERR

I just said to myself, how can you do that? You have a perfect club. Seriously. We were talking, should we go left of it, should we go… There were so many options. There were still 7 right of it, and I had enough to carry. I worked with my coach just getting a good coil all week, and when I short-coil a little bit, it goes a little right and a little short. I had just rip-hooked a hybrid on the hole before. I just figured if I hit it solid, it was fine, and I didn't hit it solid.

I love the intensity, and I didn't play well enough down the stretch to win.

I thought I played great. Hitting it in the water at the last hole was not indicative of my week, but I made a great save. I can take that away from how well I played all day. I had a chance. I forced her, put pressure on her so she didn't run away from the field. Unfortunately, the last five holes, I wasn't able to get a couple birdies to be able to pull ahead.

On 13: My ball was in a divot, and I hit an amazing shot out and just barely misread it.

On 14: That putt should have gone in; there's no way that should have missed. It was in.

On 15: I didn't capitalize by hitting on the upper tier to get a good look at birdie.

I played great. It was just wasn't my day.

I was aggressive, and I didn't pull it off.

We all have our role to play, and I don't know where that puts me as far as keeping No. 1 or losing it, but I'm not going to be far off as far as points, so this was an important week for me to finish up there even if I didn't win.

Topics: Notes and Interviews, Portland Classic

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