KAPOLEI, HI - APRIL 21: Ai Miyazato of Japan celebrates after making a par putt on the 18th hole and winning the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf at the Ko Olina Golf Club on April 21, 2012 in Kapolei, Hawaii. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Ai Miyazato thanks her swing coach for some fatherly advice.
Thanks to a putting pointer from her swing coach and putting mentor -- who also happens to be her father -- Ai Miyazato played her way to her eighth tour win at the inaugural LPGA LOTTE Championship.
“He gave me a couple tips, so I worked really hard with the two tips last couple weeks, and now it's, you know, perfect rolling,” Miyazato told reporters prior to Saturday’s final round at Ko Olina Golf Club.
For sure, dad’s advice worked wonders for the 26-year-old from Japan who needed something to ignite her game after a T56 finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship. After widening her stance for better equilibrium, Miyazato aced the greens on Michelle Wie’s home course.
“I had a wide stance last year with my putting. Then this year I try to make a little bit narrower, but then after Kraft Nabisco it was too narrow so my putting stroke was a little bit off. My balance was a little bit off, too,” said Miyazato, who needed just 107 putts (29, 25, 29, 24) in her four-shot win over Azahara Munoz and Meena Lee.
In addition to changing her setup, Miyazato, who closed the week at 12-under thanks to three birdies in her final five holes, weakened the grip on her flat stick to eliminate missing putts to the left.
“My right grip was a little bit strong, too, so that makes more hook,” said Miyazato, who, thanks to the old man, ranks first on tour in putts per greens in regulation and putting average (28.13). “Now it's a little bit weak, good position.”
As for the rest of the field, world No. 1 Yani Tseng finished in a disappointing tie for 10th while So Yeon Ryu continued to outplay teen phenom Lexi Thompson in the battle for LPGA Rookie of the Year honors. Tying Cristie Kerr for fourth place, Ryu, the reigning U.S. Women’s Open champ, holds a 141-point lead over Thompson, who missed the cut at 7-over (75, 76).
Speaking of missed opportunities, Thompson’s playing partner, Wie, failed to make the cut in her third straight competition after a wretched 10-over (76, 78) on a course where she honed her skills as a kid. Perhaps Wie could ask Miyazato’s father for some putting instruction because nothing else -- belly putter, conventional blade, long hours on the practice green, work with short-game gurus Dave Pelz and Dave Stockton -- has seemed to help.
As golfers of any skill level know, putting yips put pressure on your whole game, and that seems to be the case with Wie, who ranks 132nd in putts per GIR and 134th in putting average (31.83) so far this season.
But 64 short strokes (34, 30) on Wednesday and Thursday were hardly the only reasons Wie never made it to the weekend. She was 14 of 28 in driving accuracy and only 22 of 36 in GIR -- which ranked her at a lowly 141st in the former category and 109th in the latter in 2012.
During her miserable second round, Wie twice hit her tee shots out of bounds and whacked her drive on the first hole, her 10th of the day, into a parking lot. That bad swing led to a quadruple-bogey 9.
Even the vaunted length of the pre-teen who burst onto the golf scene with a long, flowing swing and a 300-yard drive is no longer a competitive advantage. With an average of 261yards, Wie ranks only 23rd in driving distance.