Jul
25
2011
Ai Came, Ai Won, Ai Shared
By Stephanie Wei under LPGA

Ai of Japan

Ai Miyazato captured the Evian Masters title on Sunday, shooting 15-under for the tournament, and pledged to donate part of her $487,500 in winnings to the Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief efforts in her native country.

“I haven’t decided yet, whether it will be all of the amount or some of it,” she said. “This year I was playing for Japan.”

“It feels amazing, this is my favorite tournament so I’m really happy that I could win this again,” Miyazato said. “Especially (because) right now, Japan’s having a tough time. So I am just really happy to bring some happiness to Japan.”

“There was so much happening at the beginning of the season, to be honest,” Miyazato said, referring to the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March. “I always have Japan in my thoughts, it gives me motivation to play.”

Miyazato, Japan’s darling, secured her maiden LPGA victory two years ago at this event — which Commissioner Mike Whan announced last week will become the LPGA’s “fifth major” beginning in 2013.

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The news is somewhat controversial and naturally has sparked the question: What makes a major a major? We tackled this question in PGA Tour Confidential last night. Here’s a snippet:

Herre: Money — if you’re the LPGA.

Evans: You make a tournament into a major by setting up the golf course to be really hard and creating a selective field. Or you could simply be a struggling organization like the LPGA looking to light a flame under a struggling brand and create a new marketing opportunity for your corporate partner. It happens all the time in business. You do whatever you have to do to survive.

Wei: Agreed. You gotta do what you gotta do. At the end of the day, the title is just a title. I think it’ll take a while for most people to start actually considering the Evian a “major.”

Shipnuck: There are four Beatles, four Spice Girls, four dudes on Mt. Rushmore, four horseman of the apocalypse. Just having a fifth major sounds hokey. But the LPGA is in survival mode, so anything that brings buzz (and a longtime sponsor commitment!) is a good thing for the tour. But, really, if you have five majors why not have a sixth? An Asian major makes more sense than a second one in Europe.

Van Sickle: That’s a great point, Alan. If any tour needs a major in Asia, it’s the LPGA. That’s where a fifth major should have gone. On the other hand, if the LPGA hadn’t decreed a new major, we wouldn’t be talking about it right now. So I consider it a successful marketing ploy already.

What do you think?

(AP Photo/Claude Paris)