DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ai Miyazato made four birdies in a six-hole stretch and escaped with par on her final hole for a 2-under 70, giving the Japanese dynamo a seven-shot lead Friday with two rounds remaining in the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament.

Miyazato barely cleared the hazard on the 18th green on the Legends course at LPGA International, then chipped off a bare patch of grass to 20 feet and holed the par putt to finishing three rounds at 11-under 205.

She was seven shots clear of Katie Futcher (69), Louise Stahle (69) and Lee Ann Walker-Cooper (74), with top threat Morgan Pressel nowhere in sight.

Pressel, the 17-year-old who tied for second in the U.S. Women’s Open, struggled to her second straight round of 75 and was tied for 11th at even-par 216, 11 shots behind Miyazato. Suddenly, the more important number to Pressel was the cutoff for getting a card, and she was only two shots clear with two days left.

Brittany Lang, who tied with Pressel as runner-up at Cherry Hills, also shot 75 and was at 217.

This week has turned into the Miyazato show, complete with some five dozen reporters and photographers following her every move at LPGA International.

Miyazato already is a star in Japan, having won six times on the Japan LPGA Tour this year and commanding higher TV ratings than the men’s tour, even when Tiger Woods is playing.

Despite her big lead, she is thinking only about her goal of 70 or better each day.

“Nothing changes,” she said. “Paula won with 11 under. I think with 2 under, I think with 2 under, I could probably get close to that number.”

The reference was to Paula Creamer, who was in high school when she won LPGA Q-school by five shots last year. Miyazato and Pressel both said they not only wanted their cards, they wanted to win this week.

Now, it appears only the 20-year-old from Japan has that chance.

“I don’t feel tired at all, and want to keep with the rhythm I have right now,” Miyazato said.

The field of 138 players will be cut to the top 70 and ties after the fourth round, and the top 24 after Sunday’s fifth round get their cards. There would be a playoff, if necessary, to determine the 24th spot.

AP-ES-12-02-05 1911EST


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