Hyogo prefecture, Kobe, Japan September 15: Japan’s Nasa Hataoka stormed to a commanding eight-shot victory by closing with a final round five-under-par 67 to win the 52nd LPGA Championship Konica Minolta Cup on Sunday.
Victory for Hataoka was especially sweet as it was her fifth and third major win on the Ladies Professional Golfers’ Association (LPGA) of Japan and allowed the world number nine to celebrate her success in front of her adoring fans on home soil at the Cherry Hills Golf Club.
The late charge by China’s Feng Shanshan did not materialize as she signed off with a 72 to share second place with Japan’s Aoi Ohnishi at the￥200,000,000 LPGA Japan event which is co-sponsored by Konica Minolta Inc.
Hataoka held an overnight two-shot advantage but quickly extended her advantage with two opening birdies before adding another on the par-four eighth. She dropped a shot on the ninth hole but responded with another birdie on 12.
The Japanese bogeyed 14 but raced towards a grandstand finish, leaving her closest rivals in their wake by signing off an eagle on 15 followed by a birdie on 18 for a winning total of 18-under-par 270.
“I can finally heave a sigh of relief now. That eagle on 15 helped me calm the nerves and I tried not to make any mistakes on 17 and 18 because of the water hazard.
“The pin positions were tough and I’m so happy I managed to win this championship,” said Hataoka.
Feng, the former world number one, was full of praises for Hataoka and believes it would not be long before the Japanese reaches the summit of the world rankings too.
“Nasa did not have any weak point all week. If she keeps playing like this, she will become the world number one soon. She’s among the group of young players doing so well and this is good for the future of golf here, especially with the Olympics coming up next year,” said the Chinese.
South Korea’s Inbee Park meanwhile finished in outright ninth place after rounds of 68, 72, 71 and 70.
“I was not able to hold some putts the last few days. The second round was little bit of everything. Yesterday and today I hit the ball good, hit fairways and greens but I could not make any putts. But finishing top-10 overall is satisfying and I really had fun here in Japan,” said Park.