Date: April 06, 2010
Author: Paul Melville

LPGA of Japan – KOGA BACK IN WINNERS CIRCLE AT YAMAHA

(6 March 2010 – Fukuroi, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan)

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Japan&aposs Miho Koga returned to the winner&aposs circle with victory on Sunday at the Yamaha Ladies Open in Fukuroi. Rounds of 68, 74 and 70 saw her finish on a 4-under par total, one shot in front of rookie Hiroko Ayada and South Korea’s Ah-Reum Hwang. It came down to the last hole where Koga made a birdie putt from 7-feet and then watched Hwang miss hers from 6-feet, giving Koga her first victory since 2008, when she clinched the Money List title with a victory at the season-ending Japan LPGA Tour Championship.

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In a tournament where there had been rain delays, the players battled a water-logged course, accounting for the high scoring, with 10-over par having made the cut. Koga began the final day in a tie with Chieko Amanuma, both on 2-under par and holding a two-shot lead over Hwang. After nine holes, Koga had forged a slim one-shot lead courtesy of a 1-under outward nine, while Hwang had moved into a tie for second with Amanuma with her 2-under par front side.

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Amanuma joined Koga in the lead after a birdie at the 11th, but that was short-lived giving the shot back at the 13th. Hwang and Koga both played the first five holes on the back nine with five straight pars before they reached the 15th, which in the end proved one of the more crucial moments. Koga made her birdie 4 at the par-5 to move to 4-under while Hwang made bogey to go back to 1-under and seemingly out of it. However, Hwang then made back-to back birdies on 16 and 17, while Koga bogeyed the 16th. This left them tied with just the par-5 18th to play. In the end, it was Koga who would make a birdie at the last, Hwang missed and Koga collected the ¥14,400,000 (approx AUD$165,000) winner’s cheque.

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27-year old Koga has had a stellar career on the LPGA of Japan, this being her 12th career victory. Afterwards she was just happy to be holding another trophy, saying “I couldn’t play well last year because of a wrist injury. Now I just feel the joy of playing golf in good shape.” Since joining the tour in 2001, she has finished 1st (2008), 3rd (2003) and 4th (2007) on the Money List, as well as three other Top-10 standings. She added, “It feels so good to win. I’m relieved.”

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Tamie Durdin, who presently holds both US and Japan LPGA status, used her week off from the US Tour to play in Japan, and finished in a tie for 18th to lead the Aussie assault. All three ALPG Members who play in Japan made the cut; Susie Mathews and Nikki Campbell both finishing in a tie for 39th at 10-over par.

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Photo courtesy of LPGA of Japan.