ROGERS, ARKANSAS – Ai Miyazato carded a 2-under-par 69 to advance to the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship on Saturday.
Playing in her first event on the U.S. LPGA Tour in two months, the former world No. 1 made four birdies against a pair of bogeys at the par-71 Pinnacle Country Club to reach 1-under 141 for a share of 63rd place after the second round.
“I am glad I was able to regain a feel for the greens early on,” said Miyazato, who last month announced she would retire at the end of the season.
“I am playing good shots so I am not going to be rash and will do my best to compete solidly on the greens.”
Miyazato won her ninth and last U.S. tour title at this tournament in 2012.
As Miyazto prepares to say farewell, Ryu So-yeon might be having the best year of her LPGA Tour career.
The third-ranked South Korean star shot a course-record 10-under 61 to take a five-stroke lead into the final round, putting her in great position to become the first repeat winner this year.
She also earned the praise of Miyazato, who finished a group ahead and was nearby at the scorer’s tent as Ryu walked off the course.
“Way to go, So-yeon,” Miyazato said. “You were on fire out there.”
Ryu, who won the ANA Inspiration in April for her second major title, reached 16 under to break the tournament’s 36-hole record by two strokes. She had her lowest score on the LPGA Tour and matched her professional best set in the 2012 Australian Ladies Masters.
Ryu opened the year with eight straight top-10 finishes, including the major victory. She struggled in her two events after that run, finishing 56th and then missing the cut at the ShopRite LPGA Classic this month in New Jersey. Coming off a two-week break, she has returned to her early season form — and then some.
“I played really well the beginning of this year, then I didn’t really play well at the last championship, kind of lost confidence a little bit,” Ryu said. “But I think it was great to have two weeks off, because when you have two weeks off you totally forget about how you played the last few tournaments.”
Local favorite Stacy Lewis and Moriya Jutanugarn were tied for second. They each shot 65.
“I think I go try to play a round like I have the last couple of days, really,” Lewis said. “That’s all I can do, and then hope for some help.”
Also for Japan, Ayako Uehara had a second straight 69 and was among a group of golfers including compatriot Harukyo Nomura tied for 30th at 4 under. Nomura shot a 70.
Nasa Hataoka and Sakura Yokomine both missed the cut.
First-round leader Park Sung-hyun followed her opening 63 with a 73 to drop into a tie for 10th at 6 under. Defending champion Lydia Ko was 5 under after a 67.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5