Nasa Hataoka wins by five to dominate DIO Implant LA Open, collects sixth LPGA victory

Nasa Hataoka began the final round of the DIO Implant LA Open with a four-shot lead and never wavered. Right from the start, the Japanese star poured in putts like someone on a mission, birdieing four of the first seven holes. Even her curling bogey putt on the sixth was impressive.

“My goal set for today was 15 under,” said Hataoka, “and I was playing good the first nine holes. My plan was to birdie as much as possible on the first nine holes, and I feel like I was able to do that.“

Hataoka held a five-shot lead over Hannah Green at the turn and won by the same margin, finishing the event at 15-under 269. This marks Hataoka’s sixth LPGA victory and her first since the 2021 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. Prior to this week, her best finish of the season was a share of 11th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship.

“I don’t know if I can compare this, but on the PGA Tour, Jordan Spieth missed the cut at the Masters and then won Heritage,” said Hataoka.

“So you never know what’s going to happen in golf, so I think that was something that boosted my confidence.”

Even so, Hataoka, 23, was surprised by what happened this week, noting that something “clicked” during Friday’s round with her ball position. She spent an hour and a half on a video chat with a coach in Japan.

“I felt like I was placing the ball away from my body,” said Hataoka, “and I placed it closer to my body, which that was like a good hint that helped me this week.”

Hataoka’s aggressive play continued throughout the final round, regardless of the size of her lead. Her bogey-free back nine was punctuated by impressive par saves and a long eagle putt on the 15th that shattered any hope Green might have had.

Inbee Park, Madelene Sagstrom and former LA Open champion Minjee Lee tied for third. Sagstrom closed with a bogey-free 66 to post her best finish of the season.

“I mean, I haven’t missed a cut since last May,” said Sagstrom, “so it’s really built a lot of confidence. Because before I was kind of, oh, I just want to make cuts. Now I’m making cuts, so now I want to start climbing up the leaderboard.”

A six-time winner on the JLPGA, Hataoka came into the week No. 12 in the Rolex Rankings. It looked like Sunday might be a showdown between the Japanese star and World No. 1 Jin Young Ko until a late-round disaster on Saturday knocked Ko down the leaderboard.

Ko and Hataoka were tied through 15 holes on Saturday. After a bogey on the 16th, Ko failed twice to get the ball out of a deep barranca on the 17th, making her first ever quadruple-bogey on the LPGA. Ko rebounded with a birdie on the 18th but the damage was done.

A flat Ko shot 75 on Sunday to finish T-21.