• Kyodo


Ai Miyazato struggled to cope with strong winds in her native Okinawa and found herself in danger of failing to make the cut after carding a 9-over 80 in the first round of the Asia-Japan Okinawa Open on Thursday.

Japan LPGA star Miyazato, the first Japanese woman to play on the country’s top-tier men’s circuit, is next to bottom in the field of 126 golfers after making just one birdie against five bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey at Naha Golf Club. Fijian Dinesh Chand and Kaname Yokoo shot 65s to share the lead, followed by Hiroyuki Fujita at 66 and Kenichi Kuboya at 67.

“It was tough. I was unable to read the winds well and I also had really bad tee shots. Unconsciously, I might have sought more distance than usual and couldn’t play my game,” Miyazato said.

Miyazato started her round on the 10th tee and bogeyed the next two holes before making her only birdie on the par-4 14th.

But she went bunker to bunker and ended up with a triple-bogey 7 at the 15th before dropping five more shots, including a double-bogey on the par-4 ninth — her final hole of the day.

“It’s disappointing, but you have days like this…I want to play well before the local crowd and shoot at least even-par tomorrow,” said the 20-year-old, who is attracting the bulk of attention in the event sanctioned by both the Japan Golf Tour Organization and the Asia Tour.

Her appearance drew a crowd of 1,867 on a chilly day, more than double that at last year’s opening round.

Miyazato earlier said she decided to play in the 100 million yen tournament “out of gratitude” to her native Okinawa to cap an illustrious year that included her triumph in the inaugural Women’s World Cup of Golf and five titles on the Japan LPGA tour.

Earlier this month, she earned a U.S. LPGA Tour card by winning the final qualifying tournament in Florida and will move her playing base to the United States next year.

Also on Thursday, defending champion Kiyoshi Miyazato, the eldest of three Miyazato siblings in professional golf, was among four players tied for fifth at 3-under 68. Yusaku Miyazato, who is also an older brother of Ai Miyazato, struggled to a 75 and is 89th.

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