Nasa Hataoka triumphs again in Arkansas; Yuka Saso finished 4th

Photo from LPGA.com

Japan’s Nasa Hataoka called a pair of aces with a very hot start in Sunday’s final round to win the NW Arkansas Championship for the second time.

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

Hataoka, 22, captured his fifth career LPGA Tour title to accompany his debut in 2018, which took place at the same tournament.

“My first win being here and of course both holes in one, I feel like that’s my strong point,” said Hataoka.

Co-lead heading into Sunday’s final round, Hataoka drove two holes in a row in as many days in her first two rounds of the 54-hole event at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas.

Hataoka hit the No.6 175-yard par-3 on Saturday with a five-iron, a day after pulling the No.11 par three in a second straight round of 65.

She became only the fifth player in LPGA Tour history to make two aces in a tournament and the first since fellow Japanese Ayako Uehara at the 2016 Women’s Open.

Minjee Lee, who started the final round tied with Hataoka for the lead, shot a 68 for second place with South Korean Ji Eun-Hee, who had a 67.

Major champions Yuka Saso of the Philippines and American Danielle Kang were fourth at 14 under, two strokes behind Hataoka.

Saso, 20, the defending US Open champion who was ninth joint after two rounds, closed with a second 65 in a row to move up the standings.

Hataoka burst out of the gate, birdieing his first two holes. After a par on the third hole, she birdied the No.4 par four.

She landed another birdie in the seventh par five, then landed her fifth and final birdie at No. 11. Her only flaw was a bogey on the 13th par four after blowing 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, yes, ”said Hataoka, who also won the LPGA Marathon Classic in July.

Stacy Lewis and world number 2 Ko Jin-Young tied for sixth at 12. Eight players tied for eighth at Under-11, including 2017 Arkansas champion Ryu So-Yeon, who clocked a record 62 in the final round.

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