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 No.9 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 Shanshan Feng did not materialise 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 lead, but quickly extended her advantage with two opening birdies before adding another on the par-four 8th. She dropped a shot on the 9th hole but responded with another birdie on 12.
The Japanese player bogeyed 14 but raced towards a grandstand finish, leaving her closest rivals in her 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,” Hataoka said.
“The pin positions were tough and I’m so happy I managed to win this championship.”
Feng, the former World No.1, was full of praise for Hataoka and believes it would not be long before Hataoka 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 World No.1 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,” Feng said.
South Korea’s Inbee Park meanwhile finished in outright ninth place after rounds of 68, 72, 71 and 70.
“I was not able to hole 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,” Park said.