ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — 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….