• Kyodo

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Ai Miyazato marked her return to the Japanese LPGA Tour with a 3-under-par 69 to grab a share of the lead after the first round of the Studio Alice Ladies Open on Friday.

Taking advantage of a two-week schedule break on the U.S. LPGA circuit to compete on home soil for the first time this year, Miyazato reeled off three straight birdies from the second hole and repeated the feat at the start of her back nine on Hanayashiki Golf Club’s Yokawa Course.

However, the 23-year-old from Okinawa suffered a wobbly patch with three consecutive bogeys from the 14th and closed in a three-way tie at the top of the leaderboard with 2005 Women’s World Cup winning partner Rui Kitada and South Korean Jeon Mi Jeong.

Miyazato has enjoyed 17 top-10 finishes since joining the LPGA Tour full time in 2006 but is still seeking her maiden victory on women’s golf’s toughest circuit.

She has won 14 times in Japan, with her most recent victory coming at the 2006 Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open.

Elsewhere, Sakura Yokomine shot a 71 and shared fourth with Natsu Nagai, Yui Mukaiyama, and Mie Nakata.

South Korean Hwang Ah Reum, who coasted to her first title in Japan with an eight-shot win at last week’s Yamaha Ladies Open, carded an even-par 72 and was in a six-way tie for eighth.

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