With a four-shot lead after three rounds of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founder Cup at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort, Ai Miyazato has control after shooting a flawless, 5-under 67:
Well, let’s see, it was a pretty solid round. I didn’t hit any bad shots and I had a few chances, a few birdie chances out there but I couldn’t make it. But still towards the end I started to feel more comfortable with my putting. The last putt was really clutch, I think, so that’s going to be good momentum to tomorrow.
That last putt was a 12-footer for par on 18 and it was a really big deal. And part of it going in was “knowing” that it would:
I think it was big because I know Stacy’s going to make it, you know, her birdie putt, so I felt like that I have to make that putt.
Before going to step to address, I felt it, I knew it was going to go in, and I just felt really good feeling before I hit it. So it’s going to be huge for tomorrow.
Stacy Lewis would have been two shots closer, but in surveying a bunker shot with her caddie, he was deemed to have “tested the surface” of the bunker: two-shot penalty.
But, for those of us that want to see an inspiring final round, that hasn’t discouraged Lewis:
In my mind I shot a bogey‑free 66 today and that’s what I’m going to take home tonight. I played really well today. Definitely could have made some more putts. I hit a ton of greens, I just didn’t make many putts, but I played great today. And Ai is playing really well. I think you shoot a number like I did today and I was two back, I thought shooting a 66 I could get a little closer. Ai’s playing great, so it’s going to take a really good round tomorrow, but I’m playing well and it’s out there.
And for Miyazato, it was almost as if her post-round comments were an echo chamber of what she told me in my exclusive interview with her after Friday’s round:
MODERATOR: Ai, if you win tomorrow, it would be your 10th win on Tour. How would it feel to get to double digits in the win category?
Well, I don’t really want to think about that right now because I know the players are playing really solid this week. There’s so many, so many low scores so far, so you never know what’s going to happen. Need one more day, having fun and appreciate that I’m playing in a tournament again. Just focus my game.
All good professional players talk about staying in the moment and just playing one shot at a time. That produced pretty amazing results for Ai that she wasn’t even aware of until after the round:
Well, my caddie told me that I hit 17 greens today and I didn’t realize until then because I just focus every single shot and take it one shot at a time. Because I’m focusing, taking one shot at a time, I think that’s why I’ve been playing really solid. And my irons are pretty good, especially my irons distance is really good so far, so hopefully I can keep doing that tomorrow.
She spoke with me about the dark three-year period where she tried to hit the ball much further, to be something she was incapable of becoming. She expanded on that a little more:
Yeah, the first three years was really stressful for me because I wasn’t really hit long and all the players hit pass me like 50 yards away and I was like this is no fair.
After that I worked on my swing and I just lose my tempo and balance and everything. I lost my confidence, too. It wasn’t a really good feeling and I thought my career was just finished.
But after that I met Pia [Nilsson] and Lynn [Marriott] and they helped a lot, and now I know myself really well. Even though I’m not still hit long, but I know I can putt and my short game is pretty solid and I have confidence with that. So you don’t have to really hit long to the fairway because the golf is not everything about distance. You can — if you can control yourself really well out there, the result’s going to follow. Now I know about that, so it’s really comfortable right now.
And she won’t be distracted from doing what she’s doing to ponder the possibility of once again returning to World No.1:
Well, I’ll think about that after tomorrow, but right now honestly to be No. 1 is my goal within the long term. Right now it’s just having fun with my process to [get] there, so we’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow.
But surely with the intervening years, she’s better equipped to get there this time, right?
Well, I don’t know about my future, I don’t know if I can do it or not. Definitely the few years ago that I was on the top of the world, that was a great experience. I never saw like that before so that definitely helps if I can be No. 1 again.
It always helps to have been there before, to know that you can do it. Thankfully, for those of us who are inspired by watching people reach crowning achievements in their lives, it’s not a prerequisite.