Japan wins World Cup by two

Updated: February 13, 2005, 2:20 PM ET
Associated Press

GEORGE, South Africa -- Teenage sensation Ai Miyazato continued her emergence as a star on Sunday, shooting a 6-under 67 in difficult conditions on the Links Course at Fancourt to lead Japan to a two-shot victory in the Women's World Cup.

A five-time winner as a 19-year-old rookie on the Japan LPGA Tour, Miyazato was 10 shots better than the average score in the final round of stroke play, in which nine of the 40 women failed to break 80.

Her teammate, Rui Kitada, had an 82 to give Japan a 3-over 149. They finished at 3-under 289 after both made birdie on the par-3 17th to surge past South Korea and the Philippines.

U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon and Hall of Famer Beth Daniel had 78-80 as the United States finished 14th in the 20-team field, 12 shots behind.

Japan squandered a six-shot lead on the back nine at Fancourt, site of the 2003 Presidents Cup.

But Miyazato and Kitada came through on the treacherous par-3 17th, which features bunkers to the right of the deep, narrow green, and an 8-foot trench that runs along the left side.

Miyazato hit her tee shot within 2 feet, and Kitada holed a 10-footer for birdie that gave Japan the lead for good in the $1 million event.

Kitada wept as she made her putt.

"That was the biggest putt of my life," she said afterward, still crying. "I missed short putts all day. Besides that, I was playing well, and I just felt I was dragging Ai down. So I was pleased to be able to help the team back into the match."

Miyazato also birdied the 17th and both parred No. 18.

"That front nine was probably the best nine holes I have ever played," Miyazato said.

This was the first Women's World Cup since 2000, when Australians Karrie Webb and Rachel Hetherington won in Malaysia. They finished fifth at Fancourt.

Jennifer Rosales shot 71, one of only four rounds under par, and Dorothy Delasin added a 75 as the Philippines tried to rally. Jeong Jang (74) and Bo Bae Song (75) of South Korea also were tied for the lead until Japan's late heroics on the 17th.

The first round was better ball and the second round was alternate shot. Sunday was stroke play, with both scores counting toward the total.

Scotland was tied for the lead going into the last day, but Janice Moodie struggled to an 80, while Catriona Matthew had a 72. Scotland finished fourth at 292.

Lorena Ochoa of Mexico had the only other sub-70 round, a 4-under 69, but that was offset by Alejandra Martin del Campo shooting an 80.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press