Japan's Hataoka finds her sweet spot with another Arkansas victory

By: AFP      Published: 07:35 AM, 27 Sep, 2021
Nasa Hataoka of Japan
Nasa Hataoka of Japan poses with the trophy after winning the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club. AFP

Japan's Nasa Hataoka followed up a pair of aces with a hot start in Sunday's final round to capture the NW Arkansas Championship for the second time.

Hataoka kept the accelerator down, draining three birdies in her first four holes Sunday in a closing round of four-under 67 for a 16-under 197 total.

The 22-year-old Hataoka clinched her fifth career LPGA Tour title to go with her first in 2018 which came at the same tournament.

“My first win being here and of course the two holes-in-one, it kind of feels like it's my power spot,” said Hataoka.

The co-leader heading into Sunday's final round, Hataoka rolled in two hole-in-ones in as many days during her opening two rounds of the 54-hole event at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.

Hataoka aced the 175-yard par-three No. 6 on Saturday with a five iron, one day after she aced the par-three No. 11 in a second straight round of 65.

She became just the fifth player in LPGA Tour history to make two aces in one tournament and the first since her Japanese compatriot Ayako Uehara at the 2016 Women’s Open.

Minjee Lee, who started the final round tied with Hataoka for the lead, shot a 68 to grab a share of second place with South Korea's Ji Eun-Hee, who had a 67.

Major champions Yuka Saso, of the Philippines, and American Danielle Kang placed fourth at 14-under overall, two shots adrift of Hataoka.

Hataoka stormed out of the gate, making birdie on her first two holes. After a par at the third hole she birdied the par-four No. 4.

She made another birdie on the par-five seventh and then rolled in her fifth and final birdie on No. 11. Her only blemish was a bogey on the par-four 13th after blasting her approach shot over the green.

"It was pretty tight, very stressful because the other players were so close to me. It was pretty stressful for me, yeah," said Hataoka, who also won the LPGA Marathon Classic in July.

Stacy Lewis and world No. 2 Ko Jin-Young ended in a tie for sixth at 12 under. Eight players tied for eighth at 11 under, including 2017 Arkansas champion Ryu So-Yeon, who shot a blistering 62 in final round.

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