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Published: Thursday, 8/9/2012

Miyazato at ease after a trying 2011

BY DAVE HACKENBERG AND STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITERS
Golfer Ai Miyazato Golfer Ai Miyazato
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Ai Miyazato says she wasn't herself last year.

Oh, she still posted an LPGA Tour victory at the Evian Masters in France and earned five other top-10 finishes. She earned more than $1 million and crossed the $5 million mark for her career.

"But it was very hard to focus on my game," Miyazato said.

It was hard for many Japanese, even those living abroad, to think of much beyond the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami that rocked the Asian island nation in March, 2011.

Miyazato was one of three Japanese pro golfers who banded together last year to raise money and provide aid for the victims who escaped with their lives but little else.

"It was a very tough year," she said. "Things are still very difficult in Japan. A lot of people are still suffering, and there is still a lot of need for help. I still want to raise awareness and funds."

As time passes, though, the native of Okinawa, who has a home now in California, has been able to spend more time on her game.

"It has been a great year, and I'm very happy with my game," she said. "I'm having fun at every tournament. I guess the best way to put it is I'm enjoying being myself again."

Miyazato has won twice this year, has a total of eight top-10 finishes, and has earned nearly $1.1 million.

She joined the LPGA Tour in 2006 and for several years had her own contingent of 20 to 30 Japanese reporters covering her.

The difficulties at home changed that too and now "it's like three people," Miyazato said. "I feel more comfortable now and maybe there is not so much pressure. But I want to keep sending good news back to Japan."

FIVE-TIME CHAMP: Se Ri Pak is missing the Farr Classic for the first time since winning the first of her five titles at Highland Meadows as an LPGA Tour rookie in 1998.

Pak has returned to her native South Korea seeking treatment for a torn labrum in her left shoulder.

She suffered the injury in late April when she slipped and fell on stairs before a tournament in Alabama. At the time, it was thought she would miss two months for rehabilitation.

Pak may have rushed her return a bit, but had played well recently with top-10 finishes in the U.S. Women's Open and the Evian Masters in France.

But she apparently re-aggravated the injury during the Evian event and felt she needed time off for further treatment.

In 14 appearances in the Farr Classic, Pak produced five wins, one runner-up finish, a fourth-place finish, and more than $1 million in earnings. Her most recent victory at the Meadows came in 2007.

BUYING TIME: Until Jessica Korda won her first LPGA tournament in the 2012 tour opener back in February, she was known only for her bloodlines. The 19-year-old American golfer is the daughter of former professional tennis players Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova, both natives of Czechoslovakia.

Jessica Korda, who turned pro in 2010, made the Jamie Farr Classic her first LPGA event that year. She has played in every U.S. Women's Open since 2008 when she qualified at age 15.

On Feb. 12 of this year she won a six-player playoff to capture the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, played in Victoria, Australia.

"It was really awesome," Korda said. "My dad won in Australia and being able to capitalize on that going back was really cool. Just the way that I won it was something really special."

Korda finished the 72-hole event at 3-under par, and one of the players she beat in the playoff was current LPGA money leader Stacy Lewis.

Korda collected $165,00 for the win, but has collected only another $67,096 in subsequent tournaments this season.

"After Australia, I couldn't play any tournaments for a month after that because the tour was in Asia," she said. "There was really nothing to play in the states.

"I kind of lost a little bit of momentum there, so it's been kind of tough to gain it back. But everything's kind of going in the right pace and it's only my second year, so I still have lots of time."

Korda, whose retired father won the 1998 Australian Open, one of his sport's four major tournaments, was able to eliminate some stress after her victory.

"The win kind of helped me calm down a little bit, and I was able to set a schedule by then," Korda said. "Everything came together that week. It was a great golf course and the atmosphere was great. I was holing putts.

"That definitely bought me time. I was 91st on the money list so I really didn't know what I was going to play this year. I wasn't in any other majors and I was going to have to go back to U.S. Open qualifying. You don't know how long your year is going to be."



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