For most players, backing up one low round with another low round is a tall order, especially at a course like Tiburón Golf Club. But for Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings No. 8 Nasa Hataoka, the task seemed easy to accomplish on Sunday at the CME Group Tour Championship. The 22-year-old fired her second straight 8-under 64 after carding nine birdies and hitting 13 of 14 fairways, as well as 16 greens in the final round. It’s the 11th time Hataoka has shot 64 and her four-day total of 22-under par 266 is a new career-best for 72 holes, besting her previous benchmark by two shots.
Though she ultimately finished runner-up to Jin Young Ko, Hataoka remains proud of her performance this week in Naples, Fla., and is looking forward to coming back better than ever in 2022, ready to compete for a record-breaking $86 million in official prize money on the LPGA Tour.
“Today I was in the final pairing so there was a little bit of pressure with that,” she said. “But I feel like I played my own golf, so I'm really satisfied with that. I had one thing in my mind: routine. There was a few times where there was a lot of pressure, but I was able to think simply which helped me a lot today. Fortunately, there are 34 tournaments next year. That's a lot. Obviously, I can't play every tournament, but I want to play as many as I can, so I'll prep for that.”
It’s been a banner year for Japanese golf and Hataoka has certainly contributed to that success, winning twice on the LPGA Tour at the Dana Open presented by Marathon and the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G. She also finished second in the U.S. Women’s Open at the Olympic Club and finished in a tie for ninth in the Bank of Hope LPGA Match-Play hosted by Shadow Creek. While she’s proud of her country’s golfing prowess throughout 2021 and is happy for her counterparts’ success, Hataoka feels like her play this year still left something to be desired and she’ll have a singular goal in the forefront of her mind as she looks forward to next season.
“It was a big year for Japan. Not many players on the Tour are from Japan, but I think the Masters win, Hideki's win, was something very big for us. He lives close to where I live in Orlando, so we practice together. (His win) definitely meant something special for me. I would like to do something similar to that,” she said of Japan’s historic 2021. “This year I wasn't really playing how I wanted to until this June, but I was able to play in a playoff in a major tournament and I won twice. Overall, it wasn't a consistent year, but how I was able to win was good.
“When I turned pro one of my biggest goals was to win a major in five years. This year was the fifth year, so I really wanted to win this year. That goal won't change. I still have strong feelings about winning majors.”