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Miyazato wins Evian playoff

AI Miyazato of Japan won the Evian Masters in France with a birdie on the first sudden-death playoff hole on Sunday, beating Sophie Gustafson of Sweden to clinch her first victory on the LPGA Tour.

Miyazato steadied herself and sank a putt from about 6 feet after Gustafson had missed her birdie putt.

"I had a tough time these last few years," Miyazato said, referring to her long wait for an LPGA title. "It is obviously a relief, but I feel a sense of accomplishment at achieving this great win. I have so many things going through my head at the moment."

Miyazato shot a 3-under 69 on her final round and Gustafson had a 70 as both finished with 14-under totals of 274. Gustafson had a chance to win it on the 18th hole, but her eagle putt stopped right on the edge of the hole.

The 24-year-old Miyazato has won numerous titles on Japan's JLPGA circuit, but Sunday's success at Evian is her biggest win to date. She is the first Japanese woman to win at Evian since Hiromi Kobayashi in 1997 - who also won on the first sudden-death playoff hole.

"Every time I walk up the stairs to the locker room I tend to see her scorecard," Miyazato said of Kobayashi. "When I saw it, I wanted to achieve what she achieved. I wanted to be a champion. I respect her a lot and feel very proud as another Japanese player to have done the same."

Miyazato clenched her fist as the last putt rolled in, then stood still for several moments with her hand on her brow as she paused to savor the win. She takes home US$487,500 - the joint-highest first prize in women's golf along with the Women's US Open.

"When I had good success in Japan I was still very young, but when I came to the States I had to adjust to many things, the culture, the language," Miyazato said. "But I don't think the length of time it took me to win was that important. It was very valuable (to learn)."

The 35-year-old Gustafson was aiming for her first title since winning the 2007 Scottish Open, and fifth overall on the LPGA Tour.

Both had birdies on the 18th hole, after Gustafson's 30-foot putt for eagle stopped agonizingly on the mouth of the hole. Meena Lee of South Korea - who shot a 65 to creep into contention - finished in a tie for third with Cristie Kerr of the United States with a 13-under score of 275.

Defending champion Helen Alfredsson of Sweden eagled No. 18 to tie for fifth with former Evian champions Paula Creamer of the United States and Karrie Webb of Australia. All had 277.

"It was a tough day because I felt like I was hitting the ball really well, giving myself a lot of chances, but couldn't hit the putts," said Alfredsson. "If you are coming behind you have to start early, and put on some pressure but I never did ... but it's nice to finish with a good feeling."

Michelle Wie tied for 23rd at 5 under but failed to collect any points in her bid for a place on the US team for next month's Solheim Cup match against Europe.


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