Ai Miyazato has known for 10 months that this season would be her last on the LPGA Tour. Ai Miyazato has known for 10 months that this season would be her last on the LPGA Tour.
The former world No. 1 is more relaxed entering this week’s NW Arkansas Championship after announcing her retirement last month.
“I feel so much better than, you know, like the last four years,” Miyazato said. “I am actually ready to play because I know that I’m going to enjoy my game more than I used to.”
It’s the first tournament in the U.S. for the 32-year-old Miyazato since making her retirement official. It’s also the site of her last LPGA Tour win a final-round comeback victory at Pinnacle Country Club in 2012.
World No. 2 Lydia Ko is the defending champion at the event, which also features former No. 1 and local favorite Stacy Lewis. She won the event in 2014 and played in college at the nearby University of Arkansas.
“In some ways, it was a little bit sad to hear that (Miyazato) was going to retire, but you’re also very happy for her,” Ko said. “What she’s done for the women’s game, not only in Japan but worldwide, I think she has made a huge impact. So, we have got a lot to thank her for.”
Miyazato’s said a lack of success in recent years has hampered her motivation, and it factored into her decision to retire. After winning 25 professional titles during her career, including nine wins on the LPGA Tour in the U.S., she had only one top-10 finish last year. She has none this year and fallen outside the top 100.
Miyazato was the first Japanese player to earn the No. 1 ranking in 2010 a position she held for 11 weeks that season. “I wasn’t really expecting that I (could) be a No. 1 in the world, but I was doing my best every single tournament,” Miyazato said. “I just wanted to be the best of myself and of my career, so I was just working hard. And at the same time, it was my joy.”
She doesn’t have a major title her best results were ties for third at the Women’s PGA Championship (2006, 2010) and the Women’s British Open (2009). But Miyazato is one of only nine players to make it to No. 1 since the women’s world golf rankings were introduced in 2006.
Her nine LPGA Tour victories all came between 2009 and 2012, including five in 2010. Despite the star power in the field, all eyes will be on Miyazato as she begins her final few months on the LPGA Tour when the tournament opens on Friday.