Japanese teen Hataoka wins LPGA Northwest Arkansas title

Nasa Hataoka became the 14th Japanese player to win an LPGA title

Washington (AFP) – Japanese teen Nasa Hataoka captured her first LPGA title in tournament record fashion, firing an eight-under par 63 on Sunday to win the Northwest Arkansas Championship by six strokes.

The 19-year-old became the 14th Japanese player to win an LPGA title by finishing 54 holes at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas, on 21-under par 192, the lowest score in tournament history.

“I was focusing on my game for the entire 18 today. I’m so happy to win,” Hataoka said through a translator. “Winning this tournament was huge for me.”

Hataoka, in her second LPGA campaign, had shared second last month at Kingsmill in her best prior showing but suffered only one bogey in three days.

American Austin Ernst was second on 198 with a third-place pack on 200 including Australian Minjee Lee, German Sandra Gal and Americans Ryann O’Toole, Ally McDonald, Brittany Altomare and Lexi Thompson, who could have become world number one with a victory.

“I played with Lexi and all the big names and playing with them was big for me,” said Hataoka, who was alongside Thompson in the last group.

Lee and Hataoka had shared the 36-hole lead at 129, but the Japanese star surged quickly with birdies at the par-3 third, par-5 fifth, par-5 seventh and par-4 ninth pulling her ahead for good at the turn.

Hataoka added birdies at the par-4 12th, the par-3 15th and 17th and at 18 she dropped her approach inches from the cup and tapped in for a final birdie to finish off the record romp.

The event was the final tuneup for next week’s third women’s major event of the year, the Women’s PGA Championship.