For much of Sunday’s final round, it looked like Nasa Hataoka would run away with the 2019 Kia Classic. The 20-year-old from Japan started the day one stroke off the lead and when she reached the inward nine, she had pulled two strokes clear of the field.
With a three-stroke lead at No. 16, Hataoka’s tee shot found the water, leading to just her third bogey of the week. But a birdie at the ensuing 17th let the young phenom cruise in to capture her third career LPGA Tour title.
“Anyone can make mistakes out here,” said Hataoka, who is projected to move from No. 7 to No. 4 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. “I forgot about the bogey very quickly. I knew that 17 was a chance I could make a birdie, and just very relieved and felt great that I was able to actually get a birdie.”
Hataoka’s win joined her victories at the 2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G and the 2018 TOTO Japan Classic, both 54-hole events. This marks her first win in a 72-hole LPGA Tour event.
Five players tied for second, including third-round leader and LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park, who had a rare cold day with her putter. She was joined by last week’s winner Jin Young Ko, current Rolex Rankings No. 1 Sung Hyun Park and LPGA winners Danielle Kang and Azahara Munoz.
Hyo Joo Kim’s bogey-free 10-under 62 tied the tournament scoring record, set on Saturday by Mi Jung Hur.
Defending champion Eun-Hee Ji finished tied for 23rd.
Source: LPGA News Release