Nasa Hataoka Wins LA Open by Five Strokes

Hataoka, who finished at 15-under 269, was the only golfer to score in the 60s in all four rounds at Wilshire Country Club.

Nasa Hataoka holds the winner's trophy after winning the DIO Implant LA Open at Wilshire Country Club on April 24 in Los Angeles. (Ashley Landis/AP)

Nasa Hataoka played consistent golf throughout the four rounds of the DIO Implant LA Open.

In fact, she was the only player in the LPGA Tour event to shoot below 70 in each round.

As a result, Hataoka secured her sixth career LPGA Tour title on Sunday, April 24, winning by five strokes over Hannah Green at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles. She finished at 15-under 269 and earned $225,000 USD (¥28.85 million JPY).

Hataoka said she found a comfort zone on the course in the opening round that carried over throughout the rest of the event.

“Yes, to be honest, the first day I wasn't feeling good with my iron game, but on the seventh hole I had something that clicked inside me, so that really helped me through all week,” Hataoka said in her post-victory news conference. “Putting-wise, poa annua greens (also known as annual meadow grass) are really difficult to play, but my experience on this type of green helped me a lot.”

She elaborated on her putting strategy after several other questions were asked.

“Yes, this poa annua [grass] is very difficult,” Hataoka stated. “I was focusing on hitting straight, hitting the center of the face. And also the touch was something that was really important this week.”

It was Hataoka’s first LPGA tournament victory since winning the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship for the second time in September 2021.

Commanding Lead Through Three Rounds

The 23-year-old Ibaraki Prefecture native held a four-stroke lead entering the final round.

After opening the tourney with a 4-under 67, shot carded a 68 in the second round to emerge as a co-leader along with South Korea’s Jin Young Ko entering the weekend.

She shot a 67 again on Saturday, then closed the event with the same 4-under score.

“My goal set for today was 15-under, and I was playing good the first nine holes,” Hataoka told reporters. “My plan was to birdie as much as possible on the first nine holes, and I feel like I was able to do that. So that helped me a lot.”

Entering the final round, Hataoka said she had played solid golf to put herself in contention for the title.

"I had a lot of chances and did sink my putts, so it was a good round," Hataoka commented. "There was more tension on the back nine, but that proves I'm competing at the top of the leaderboard. Being able to fight it out in these positions gives me confidence."

Strong Start in Final Round

In the final round, Hataoka was at 3-under 32 entering the back nine after making four birdies on the opening nine holes. She held a five-stroke advantage over Green at that point.

She made an eagle on the par-5 15th hole. And it gave Hataoka a feeling of satisfaction with the pressure of chasing a tournament victory on her mind.

“That eagle really helped me kind of relax a little bit, kind of feel like ― you know, I feel like I was putting really good today,” she said.

Hataoka then made par on the 16th and 17th before closing out with a bogey on the par-3 18th.

In the previous LPGA Tour event, Hataoka missed the cut at the LOTTE Championship in Ewa Beach, Hawaii, shooting 75 and 77 in the opening two rounds in the previous week.

“I don't know if I can compare this, but on the PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth missed the cut at the Masters and then won Heritage,” said Hataoka. “So you never know what's going to happen in golf, so I think that was something that boosted my confidence.”

RELATED: GOLF | Nasa Hataoka Triumphs at Rain-Shortened Marathon Classic

Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward's [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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