First Posted: 6/21/2013
(AP) Mika Miyazato made the most of her return to the LPGA Tour's NW Arkansas Championship.
Miyazato birdied six of 10 holes in the middle of her round on Friday to shoot a 6-under 65 and earn the first-round lead at Pinnacle Country Club.
Miyazato finished in a tie for second at the event last year, missing a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to finish a stroke back of winner Ai Miyazato.
The Japanese golfer hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation to finish a shot ahead of So Yeon Ryu and Angela Stanford at 5 under. Ten golfers are two shots back at 4 under, including local favorite Stacy Lewis, who played collegiately at the nearby University of Arkansas.
World No. 1 Inbee Park is four shots off the lead after shooting a 2-under 69.
Lewis enjoyed the largest gallery during the afternoon in front of her Arkansas fans who serenaded her with a call of "Woo Pig Sooie" after she hit the green on No. 17. The Texas native missed her birdie putt on the hole, but she closed out her round with an up-and-down birdie out of the greenside bunker on the par-5 18th.
The world No. 2 earned an unofficial win at the rain-shortened event as an amateur in 2007, but she hasn't finished higher than eighth since. She had no such problems on Friday, hitting 13 of 13 fairways.
While Lewis enjoyed the local following in the afternoon, Mika Miyazato posted the lowest score of the day during her morning round.
Miyazato, who has struggled for much of this year, nearly won the tournament a year ago. She began the last round in the final pairing before watching as Ai Miyazato sank a 5-foot birdie putt in the group ahead of her to take a one-shot lead.
Mika Miyazato then missed her birdie attempt on the final hole to finish in a tie for second.
Miyazato went on to win her first LPGA event later last year at the Safeway Classic, but she entered this week 46th on the money list and 77th in scoring average including 133rd in putting. Still 15th in the world rankings, Miyazato looked comfortable from tee to green on Friday in posting her lowest score of the year, only her second round in the 60s.
In addition to hitting 16 greens in regulation, Miyazato made several key putts including a 10-footer to save par on No. 16. That followed her final birdie of the round, which came after she hit an 8-iron close on the par-3 15th.
The group at 4 under includes Lewis, Chie Arimura, Danielle Kang, Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Lisa McCloskey, Mina Harigae, Suzann Pettersen, Christel Boeljon and Sarah Kemp.Associated Press