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Miyazato takes second in HSBC World Match Play

Date Posted: 2007-07-27

Seon Hwa Lee did it again, spoiling the afternoon for Okinawa's Ai Miyazato to win the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

South Korea's Lee beat the 12th seeded Miyazato 2-1, making it twice in a row she bested Miyazato. The 21-year-old Korean gal first did it last year, stealing the lead in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, then going on to the win. “I love match play,” Lee says. Lee, who turned the Korean golf world upside down much the same as Miyazato did in Japan, turned pro at age 14, and winning her first professional tournament at 15.

The 22-year-old Miyazato, who grew up in Higashi Village and has a pair of brothers on Japan’s professional golf circuit, didn’t have a chance to take the lead after being two-down with three holes to go, but kept it close with a conceded birdie on the par 4 14th hole. Lee bounced back with a six-foot birdie putt, while Miyazato missed her eight-foot birdie. “That was a very important putt,” Miyazato remarked after the match.

Miyazato, a 14-time winner on the Japanese tour, is winless in 43 attempts on the LPGA tour, but this was her best finish. She earned $300,000 for the second place role, while Lee picked up $500,000 for the win on the Wykagyl course in New Rochelle, New York. “I didn’t feel any pressure,” Miyazato says of the World Match Play Championship. “She played very well, but I honestly think I played very well, too.”

Okinawa’s hometown favorite went to the finals by beating 40th ranked Maria Hjorth 3-2, while Lee, who was ranked 22nd going into the event, slid past fellow Korean Mi Hyun Kim. Miyazato says it was a good tournament, and “I got some big play and learned some important things, too.”

At home, Higashi Village mayor Morihisa Ijuu was ecstatic. “Wonderful. It was great enough. This game,” he told Miyazato, “will make your next play more effective.” Ijuu predicts Miyazato will be the world’s number one champion soon. A former Olympic weightlifter, Village Board of Education member Hisaya Yoshimoto, said “the match was too hard, because all of Japan’s expecting Ai to be the champion. Still,” he says, “she is a very strong lady and she did play very well.” Yoshimoto also echoed the belief Miyazato will one day be the world’s best lady golfer.

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