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Miyazato captures Evian Masters by two strokes

Date Posted: 2011-07-29

“This year I was playing for Japan” says a teary-eyed but happy Ai Miyazato only moments after sinking her winning putt at the Evian Masters in France Sunday.

The 26-year-old Okinawa darling won the event by two strokes over Stacy Lewis of the United States in the tournament she calls “my favorite tournament”. Miyazato first won the Evian Masters in 2009. Sunday she shot a two-under-70 to protect her two-shot lead over Lewis, who pressed hard on the final holes. “It feels amazing,” says Miyazato of the victory. “I’m really happy that I could win this again, especially because right now Japan’s having a tough time, so I’m really happy to bring some happiness to Japan.”

Miyazato says “I haven’t decided yet, whether it will be all of it or some of it,” referring to her pledge to donate her $487,500 Evian Masters winnings to Japan disaster relief. She’d not won a title in eleven months, her last coming at the Safeway Classic last August. Miyazato had surged to #1 in world rankings with her five wins in 2010, but had slipped to No. 10 in the rankings going into the Evian Masters.

The annual tournament in Evian-Les-Bains, France is special to Miyazato, because it’s where she won her first Ladies Professional Golf Association title in 2009. Miyazato now joins Laura Davies of England and Annika Sorenstam of Sweden as two-time winners, and trails Sweden’s Helen Alfredsson, who is holder of the inaugural title and the record three wins.

Miki Saiki of Japan finished the event in third, three strokes behind Miyazato. Fellow Okinawan Mika Miyazato finished ten strokes off the pace in a tie for ninth.

Miyazato was solid throughout most of the tournament, starting the final round with three birdies on the front nine. She experienced some jitters on the back nine with a bogey on the 12th while her partner of the day birdied. “I was nervous this morning, but I had a really good feeling with my game and I really trusted myself,” she smiled, “even when my lead slipped down to one. I was never in a hurry, and I expected that to happen,” she explained of the tight finish.

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