GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. » Once Ai Miyazato of Japan stopped worrying about becoming the No. 1 player in women’s golf, getting there was easy.
Dominating the LPGA Tour in a way akin to Annika Sorenstam and Lorena Ochoa, Miyazato cruised to her fourth win of the year and took over the top spot in women’s golf with an impressive two-shot victory over M.J. Hur of South Korea in the reborn $1.5 million ShopRite LPGA Classic yesterday.
The Rolex rankings won’t be announced until today, but the LPGA said Miyazato will be No. 1.
"When I started playing in the States, that’s when I really started thinking about being No. 1," Miyazato said. "That became a dream of mine, especially watching Annika and Lorena play. Now that I am No. 1, I still can’t believe it, but I do feel very comfortable with it."
Miyazato, who turned 25 on Saturday, shot a 7-under 64 in winning for the first time in the United States, and for the fifth time since joining the tour in 2006.
Miyazato was machinelike on Seaview’s Bay Course yesterday in the shadow of Atlantic City. She started the final round of the 54-hole tournament two shots behind Hur and she had a piece of the lead after making a 15-foot birdie at No. 2 and a tap-in on the par-5 third hole. A 3-foot birdie on No. 9 gave her sole possession of the lead and she opened daylight with a 15-footer on No. 10 and a 30-footer for birdie on the 14th hole.
The birdie on 10 came after she played out of a fairway bunker.
"I believe in myself and the game and no matter what the situation is or the pressure is I feel like I can play my game," said Miyazato, who had seven birdies and no bogeys over the final 18 holes.
While the winning margin was two shots, it was really never that close. Hur, the second-round leader, had to birdie the final three holes just to finish in second place.
Even when the 20-year-old Hur, who was playing in the group behind Miyazato, drew to within two shots with birdies at Nos. 16 and 17, the Japanese star responded. She hit her third shot within 10 feet and made the birdie.
"I said to myself I need one more good swing, one more good putt," Miyazato said. "So it was a good self-talk and I was really able to stay in control of myself out there."
Miyazato had a 54-hole total of 16-under 197 to earn a winner’s check of $225,000, pushing her earnings this year to $830,238.
Her earlier wins this year were in Thailand, Singapore and Mexico. Her first LPGA win came last year in France.
Miyazato will replace Jiyai Shin of South Korea atop the rankings. Shin has missed the last two tournaments after undergoing an appendectomy. She hopes to return to the tour in next week’s LPGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y.
Shin took over the top spot after Ochoa retired earlier this year to focus on starting a family.
The thought of becoming No. 1 distracted Miyazato in recent weeks and it led to her missing the cut in last weekend’s State Farm Classic. She had a long talk with her caddie Mike Seaborn on Wednesday.
"We had a really good talk about the world rank, and what I need to do to focus right now," Miyazato said. "So that’s why I got so clear about this week and started again to focus my swing and every single shot."
Fellow South Korean Inbee Park, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, had a final-round 67 and finished third at 12 under, four shots behind the winner. Hawaii’s Michelle Wie carded a 68, her best round of the weekend, yesterday to finish at 2-under 211, tied for 46th. She won $5,491.
Kirk gets first win
Chris Kirk shot a 6-under 64 in the final round to win the Fort Smith Classic in Arkansas.
Kirk finished with a 16-under 264 at the 6,783-yard Hardscrabble Country Club course. He made par on each of his final three holes to win his first tournament as a professional and take over the top spot on the Nationwide Tour’s money list. He also secured his spot on the PGA Tour next year.
Kirk held off a rally by Kyle Thompson (63), who finished the tournament at 15 under. Thompson briefly tied Kirk with a birdie putt on No. 18, but Kirk responded moments later with a birdie of his own on the par-3 15th.
Arkansan John Daly (69) finished tied for 22nd at 8 under in his first Nationwide event since 1991.
Jeong takes Brit Amateur
South Korea’s Jin Jeong has become the first Asian player to win the British Amateur Championship in the competition’s 125-year history.
The 20-year-old Jeong, who plays for Australia’s Waverley Golf Club, beat James Byrne of Scotland 5 and 4 in a 36-hole final in Muirfield, Scotland.
His reward for the milestone is a place in next month’s British Open at St. Andrews and an invitation to the 2011 Masters.