• Kyodo

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Ai Miyazato took full advantage of a commanding lead she took after two rounds and cruised to an eight-shot victory Sunday at the Vernal Ladies for her first title of the year on the Japan LPGA Tour.

News photoAi Miyazato smiles with her trophy after winning the Vernal Ladies tournament in Amagi,
Fukuoka Prefecture, on Sunday. It was her first JLPGA Tour victory this season.

Miyazato, whose course-record 64 Saturday gave her a six-stroke cushion, finished the 54-hole tournament at 13-under-par 203 after shooting a final-round 70 with an eagle, three birdies and three bogeys at Fukuoka Century Golf Club.

With the win at the Tour’s richest tournament, Miyazato earned a check for 21.6 million yen from the 120 million yen purse and jumped into first place on this year’s money list with 31.9 million yen in official earnings, 7.6 million yen ahead of second-placed Michiko Hattori.

After dropping a shot at No. 2, Miyazato, 19, birdied three straight holes from the seventh to solidify her lead.

She had two straight bogeys from the 10th but all but sealed her seventh victory on the Tour, including one she took as an amateur in 2003, with a two-putt eagle on the par-5 16th after hitting a 5-wood from 205 yards to within 10 feet.

“Everything went fine and it feels like the New Year and summer holidays have come together,” Miyazato said. “I’ve been feeling that an increasing number of people come to women’s tournaments and I’m glad that I finally lived up to their expectations.”

Akiko Fukushima finished second at 5-under 211 after a 69. Lee Eun Hye of South Korea also shot a 69 and finished two strokes further behind at 213, followed by Australian Tamie Durdin at 214.

Yuri Fudo, the Tour’s top player who won last week’s Salonpas World Ladies, ended the week tied for seventh at 216.

Two-in-a-row for Ho

TAMANA, Kumamoto Pref. (Kyodo) Overnight leader S.K. Ho of South Korea successfully defended his title at the Japan PGA Championship on Sunday, shooting a final-round 69 to hold off Hideto Tanihara by two shots.

Ho carded five birdies and two bogeys while making a series of key par-saving putts down the stretch on his way to a total of 16-under-par 272 at Tamana Country Club for his fourth career victory on the Japanese tour.

The 31-year-old became the first player to win back-to-back Japan PGA crowns since Tsuneyuki Nakajima achieved the feat in 1983 and ’84.

Beginning the day two strokes clear of Tanihara and Hiroyuki Fujita, Ho picked up three strokes through eight holes to extend his lead to four shots but a bogey on the 13th cut the lead back to two after Tanihara made a birdie.

While Tanihara missed a string of makable birdie attempts on the final four holes, Ho got himself out of trouble with a deft short game and putting, especially on the par-5 final hole.

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