27 September 2021: Amidst plenty of drama on the 18th green, it was the par-save at the 13th that enabled Nasa Hataoka edge home to a fifth LPGA victory and a second win this season. Aditi Ashok stormed out of the gates with a thundering effort – four birdies in seven holes – fueling her final round surge up the order in the Arkansas Championship. In the end that was enough to help Aditi score her fifth top ten on the LPGA and push just inside the top eighty on the CME Globe standings, the rankings that determine the stature of the card on the top women’s circuit.
Aditi is inside the top 10 for the second time this season. She was T3 at the Great Lakes Bay Invitational in July, where she finished 19-under 261 with the help of a 63 in the second round.
This week at the Pinnacle Golf Club, Aditi shot scores of 65-70-67 to end the week at 11-under 202, five strokes behind the winner.
Playing in the final group with Minjee Lee and Eun-Hee Ji, Hataoka did just enough to secure her second victory in the Arkansas Championship, with Lee and Ji pushing her all the way to the final putt.
“My first win being here and of course the two holes-in-one, it kind of feels like it’s my power spot,” said Hataoka.
The Japanese started her day with a pair of birdies, before adding three more by the time she reached the twelfth tee. At the 13th she sailed too far, overhitting the green with her approach shot. But she recovered well from 50 feet to save par and prevent any damage to her card. The 22-year-old is now the third most prolific Japanese golfer on the LPGA behind Ayako Okamoto (17) and Ai Miyazato (9).
“It was pretty tight, very stressful because the other players were so close to me. It was pretty stressful for me, yeah,” said Hataoka. “The grass type, it matches what I was doing when I was young, and so I’m able to kind of know how it reacts, so that kind of helps me. And so I like this course.”
Lee and Ji kept Hataoka honest with a brilliant show on the second nine on Sunday. The Aussie posted three birdies to move just one back while an eagle from Ji on the 14th hole also put her firmly in an intense tussle along the final stretch of this three round tournament. Even though Ji did produce a birdie on the final hole, it was only good enough for a tie in second with Lee.
Eagles on the seventh and eighteenth highlighted a good week for Yuka Saso, who finished in a tie for fourth with Danielle Kang. Both women shot 6-under 65s in the final round.
Stacy Lewis and Jin Young Ko secured a tie for sixth at -12. Eight players tied for eighth at -11, in the group with Aditi. So Yeon Ryu was in that group with the help of a 62, the lowest round of the week.