SINGAPORE (AP) — Ai Miyazato won the HSBC Champions on Sunday to become the first LPGA Tour player in 44 years to sweep the first two events of a season, closing with 3-under 69 for a two-stroke victory over Cristie Kerr.
Miyazato, the 24-year-old Japanese star who won the LPGA Thailand last week, took the lead with a birdie on the par-4 16th – a hole she played in 5 under for the week – and parred the final two holes to finish at 10 under on Tanah Merah’s Garden Course.
A 15-time winner on the Japanese tour, Miyazato earned $195,000 for her third career LPGA Tour victory – all outside North America. She won the Evian Masters last year in France for her first LPGA Tour title.
“This is obviously a great start for me,” Miyazato said. “I try to stay in the present in what I do and that’s really helping my game at the moment.”
Marilynn Smith was last player to win the first two events in a season, accomplishing the feat in 1966. Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1952) and Mickey Wright (1963) also swept season-opening events.
Miyazato admitted she doubted herself before winning the Evian Masters.
“Very much so,” she said. “I did have doubts about myself before the Evian. And because this tour is at such a high level, you know, I did lose my confidence. But many people have supported me thus far, and I just want to thank them right now for what they have done for me.”
Kerr birdied No. 16 to take the lead at 10 under, but bogeyed the final two holes for a 68. Jiyai Shin, the winner last year, closed with a 67 to tie for third at 7 under with Suzann Pettersen (69), Song-Hee Kim (67) and Yani Tseng (69).
Kerr’s drive on the 17th sailed into the trees and left her battling insects.
“I was standing in fire ants,” Kerr said. “I was playing great, but it was a disappointing finish.”
Juli Inkster, the 49-year-old Hall of Famer who began the round tied with Miyazato for the lead, shot a 74 to tie for ninth at 5 under.
Michelle Wie had a 70 to tie for 15th at 4 under.
Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa, tied for the first-round lead after a 68, closed with rounds of 79, 73 and 72 to tie for 38th at 4 over. She won the inaugural event in 2008.
Associated Press Writer Chun Han Wong contributed to this report.