Ai on course to second Evian win

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Two years after winning her first Evian Masters, Ai Miyazato is on the verge of a second triumph in this soon-to-be a major.

Two years after winning the Evian Masters, Japan’s Ai Miyazato is on the verge of a second triumph after a sparkling 67 gave her a two stroke lead heading into the final round.

Miyazato posted a bogey-free round of five birdies on a day of sunshine at the Evian Masters Golf Club in France.

She ended the day at 13 under, two clear of halfway leader Miki Saiki, also of Japan, Americans Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford and South Korean Ran Hong.

The 26-year-old world number 10 from Okinawa admitted that she felt totally at ease in the Evian event which in 2013 will become the fifth major of women’s golf.

“I love this tournament. Since a couple years ago I have such a great feeling for it, you know. I have a great memory from my first win here.. Hopefully I can win the trophy tomorrow.”

Whereas Miyazato is winless so far in 2011, having focused her efforts on fundraising for victims of the Japanese earthquake, Lewis already has one victory, a major, under her belt and the 26-year-old is hoping that the experience of winning a major will help her to become the fourth American winner of the Evian event, following Juli Inkster (2003), Paula Creamer (2005) and Natalie Gulbis (2007).

Lewis said: “I’m a little bit frustrated with the way I played today. The day for me was kind of frustrating. I hit a ton of good golf shots but probably four or five putts lipped out.”

She is expecting some low scoring on Sunday.

“The course is so soft and so score-able you know somebody’s going to shoot five or six under. You just hope that it’s you,” she added.

The lowest score of the week so far has come from South Korea’s I.K. Kim, who shot 64 with nine birdies on Saturday.

The 2009 Dubai Ladies Masters champion finished at 10 under par alongside Swede Maria Hjorth (70).

Japan’s Mika Miyazato, American Cristie Kerr and South Korean Shin-Ae Ahn remain in the hunt at nine under par, while LET Rookie Caroline Headwall continued to shine on her Evian debut, posting a 69 to sit at eight under alongside the 2010 champion Jiyai Shin.

The 22-year-old Swede, who leads the LET’S Rolex Rookie of the Year standings after two victories in Slovakia and Holland, said: “I played pretty solid today. I think I had a bit of bad luck on the back nine, but I had two birdies coming in. It’s a good position coming into the final day. I will keep doing what I’ve been doing this week.”

Her favourite golfer, the world number three Suzann Pettersen, shot a 69 and was in a group at seven under par with Pat Hurst, Morgan Pressel, Ayako Uehara and Paula Creamer.

The 30-year-old Norwegian is wearing a black armband after finding out about the bombing and shootings atrocities in her home country on Friday.

“Golf kind of means nothing when your fellow Norwegians are going through what they were today. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of those affected. All I can say is please send my love and all my thoughts to everyone back home.”

TOP 10 LEADERBOARD

203 – Ai Miyazato (JPN) 68 68 67

205 – Ran Hong (KOR) 69 69 67, Stacy Lewis (USA) 69 67 69, Miki Saiki (JPN) 68 67 70, Angela Stanford (USA) 70 66 69

206 – In Kyung Kim (KOR) 74 68 64, Maria Hjorth (SWE) 67 69 70

207 – Mika Miyazato (JPN) 71 68 68, Cristie Kerr (USA) 68 69 70, Shin Ae Ahn (KOR) 67 69 71

208 – Caroline Hedwall (SWE) 73 66 69, Jiyai Shin (KOR) 69 69 70

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