Ai Miyazato leads Safeway Classic, Juli Inkster DQ'd for rules violation

Less than a week after a rules violation cost Dustin Johnson his shot at the PGA Championship, Juli Inkster was disqualified from the LPGA Tour's Safeway Classic when a television viewer spotted her breaking a rule.

The 50-year-old Hall of Famer was making the turn on the Ghost Creek Course at Pumpkin Ridge, but the No. 10 hole was backed up. During the 30-minute wait, she affixed a "doughnut" weight to her 9-iron and took some practice swings to stay loose.

Turns out that's not allowed under rule 14-3.

The alert viewer informed tournament officials by e-mail, but Inkster was already on the 17th hole. She finished her round to the applause of the crowd on the rural course about 20 minutes west of Portland.

A fan yelled "Go Juli!" and she smiled. Inkster was at 8 under heading into Sunday's final round, in a trio three strokes back of leader Ai Miyazato

LPGA Director of Tournament Competitions Sue Witters met Inkster in a tunnel under the stands leading from the green to the scorer's tent. Inkster, Witters said, was understandably surprised that she had been disqualified.

"Totally surprised," Witters said. "I mean, there was no malice there. Her sole reason for doing it was because she had been waiting 30 minutes and had to warm up."

The turn of events marred the second round of the Safeway Classic, in its second year at Pumpkin Ridge after 19 at Columbia Edgewater near Portland International Airport.

Miyazato, who is from Japan, shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday to take a three-stroke lead at 11-under into Sunday's final round. Inkster was tied for second at 8 under with Song-Hee Kim (64) and Na Yeon Choi (67) after an apparent 67.

Miyazato has won four tournaments this season and is among five players in a tight battle for the No. 1 spot in the rankings. Cristie Kerr is currently No. 1, followed by Miyazato, Jiyai Shin, Suzann Pettersen and Yani Tseng.

About the only trouble Miyazato had was on the par-4 12th when she hit over the green from a bunker. She muffed her shot and was still in the rough — but she was able to hole it in from there to settle for a bogey.

"It went in, and it was really lucky, I think," she said, marveling that it wasn't worse.

Shin and Kerr were both in contention at 7 under. Kerr won the event in 2008 at Columbia Edgewater.

South Korea's Ji Young Oh shot a second-round 64 to top a group of four players at 6 under. She would have had the best round of her career had she not bogeyed the par-4 No. 18, but overall she was pleased.

"I had a good shot and a good putter," she said. "So everything was good."

M.J. Hur, the defending champion, was at 4 over and did not make the projected cut. The Safeway Classic is her first and only title to date. Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Christina Kim were among those who also missed the cut.

Tseng, who the Women's British Open on Aug. 1 for her second major victory of the season and third in three years just made the cut at 3 over.

Inkster's best finish on the tour this season was a tie for ninth at the HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore in February. Miyazato won the event.

Witters said video replay confirmed Inkster broke the rule on the par-5 10th hole.

"The rules staff here made the decision on the rule and we took it one step further and called the USGA," Witters said. "We would have loved to have some wiggle room on that. But it's pretty cut and dried."

Last Sunday at Whistling Staits, Johnson was given a two-shot penalty on the final hole because he grounded his 4-iron in the sand to the right of the fairway, not aware he was in a bunker.

Johnson had a one-shot lead when he teed off on the 18th. He missed a 7-foot par putt and seemed to slip into a playoff. But when he learned he had let his club touch the sand during his preshot routine, Johnson had to add two shots to his score and wound up tied for fifth.

Inkster was stern-faced Saturday evening as she was whisked away by a course shuttle after learning of her disqualification. Later, she issued a brief statement.

"I had a 30-minute wait and I needed to loosen up," she said. "It had no effect on my game whatsoever, but it is what it is. I'm very disappointed."