Japan’s Miyazato wins LPGA’s Safeway Classic

NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — Mika Miyazato made a name for herself in the Safeway Classic.

Long stuck in fellow Japanese player Ai Miyazato’s shadow, Mika Miyazato won her first LPGA Tour title Sunday, finishing with a 2-under 70 to beat Brittany Lincicome and Inbee Park by two strokes.

“It was my dream to win and play on the LPGA Tour,” Mika Miyazato said.

Ai Miyazato, a nine-time LPGA Tour winner, ran on the 18th green to congratulate Mika Miyazato after the breakthrough victory. She is the 11th Japanese player to win on the LPGA Tour and the third to win the event, following Ayaka Okamoto in 1986 and Ai Miyazato in 2010.

“It is very fulfilling for me to win along with those other famous players,” Mika Miyazato said.

The 22-year-old Miyazato finished at 13-under 203 in her wire-to-victory on Pumpkin Ridge’s Ghost Creek Course. She shared the first-round lead and had a two-shot advantage after the second.

Lincicome closed with a 67, and Park had a 70.

The 22-year-old Miyazato, in her fourth season on the LPGA Tour, is the sixth first-time winner this year. Since June, she has had six top-10 finishes, including second-place ties in the NW Arkansas Championship and LPGA Championship.

“At the beginning of the season, my short game was no good. I try to work more on short game,” Miyazato said. “My golf game is getting better. I have more confidence in my golf game.”

South Korea’s Haeji Kang had a 66 — the best round of the day, to tie for fourth at 10 under with Cristie Kerr (70) and So Yeon Ryu (71). Sydnee Michaels, the first-round co-leader, was four strokes back after a 70.

Michelle Wie had her first top-10 finish of the season, shooting a 69 to finish eighth at 8 under.

“It feels good to get on the leaderboard and see my name up there consistently this week,” Wie said. “It was a lot of fun.”

Top-ranked Yani Tseng faded with a 73 to finish at 6 under. Paula Creamer was 3 under after a 76.

Miyazato was cruising on the front nine, and took a three-stroke lead into the back nine. But a bogey at No. 10 — her first in 40 holes — helped bring four players within a stroke of the lead down the stretch.

Miyazato’s tee shot at the par-3 11th was headed for a creek near the green, but the ball glanced off a rock and landed near the green. Miyazato was able to salvage par by making a 25-foot putt.

“After the 10th hole, I was so disappointed with my chipping shot. I’m so angry with myself,” Miyazato said. “My tee shot (at 11), I thought I got it into the water hazard. Maybe lucky for me there.”

No one was able to pull even with Miyazato, who gave herself some insurance with a 5-foot birdie putt at short par-4 17th for a two-stroke lead.

Though her game was solid, Miyazato said she was a wreck inside.

“My inside heart was so much beating,” she said.

Park made five birdies in an eight-hole stretch. She missed a 6-foot eagle putt on 17 that would have given her a share of the lead.

Lincicome birdied the final two holes in her bogey-free round.

Kang made eight birdies, and moved into contention on the back nine, pulling within one stroke of the lead with a birdie at the par-3 16th. But Kang’s bid came apart at the 17th when she tried to drive the green and went into the water, leading to a double bogey.

“I was hitting my drives perfectly and especially my irons were great, so I hit it close enough to get a lot of chances out there,” Kang said.

Miyazato earned $225,000.

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