PHOENIX — Ai Miyazato took the LPGA Founders Cup lead on a hot afternoon in the desert, playing a late four-hole stretch in 5 under for a tournament-record 9-under 63.
Returning from a whiplash injury sustained in a five-vehicle crash in Thailand, the Japanese star was comfortable in the heat Thursday as the temperature soared into the 90s. She birdied the par-3 14th, made a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th and birdied the par-4 16th and par-3 17th to open a two-stroke lead.
“It’s just beautiful out there,” Miyazato said. “It’s just always nice to play in this tournament. It’s very enjoyable and I just had a good feeling this morning. I was just very happy to be here. The weather is just awesome and I was like, ‘I’m going to do this today.’ And there you go, I shot 9 under. I hit the ball well and my putting was really good and I think I had good course management.”
The nine-time LPGA Tour winner was hurt three weeks ago while riding in a caravan of players on the way to the Bangkok airport. She withdrew the following week in Singapore as a precaution because of stiffness in her neck, shoulder and back.
“Right after Thailand, it was really hard,” Miyazato said. “Singapore was one of my favorite tournaments and I was really disappointed that I couldn’t play, but I just tried to get nice and easy after that because my neck and my lower back were sore.
“I think I had a nice time off and now I feel fine. Just totally feels good.”
Comfortable in the area, Miyazato has a home in Phoenix at the Legacy Golf Resort and tied for second last year on Desert Ridge’s Wildfire layout, a stroke behind Yani Tseng.