KILDEER, Ill. – Nasa Hataoka is easing the pain of Ai Miyazato’s recent retirement for Japanese golf fans.
The bright, young star’s popularity continues to soar with her emergence in a hot American run this season.
A week after claiming her first LPGA title at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Hataoka couldn’t break through Sunday to join Hisako Higuchi as the only players from Japan to win a women’s major, but Hataoka made some history trying at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Hataoka almost pulled off the greatest final-round comeback in the history women’s major championship golf.
With an 8-under-par 64, the lowest final round in the history of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, Hataoka came from nine shots back to join Sung Hyun Park and So Yeon Ryu, in a three-way playoff that Park ultimately won with a birdie at the second sudden-death hole.
Nobody has ever come from more than seven shots back to win a women’s major.
And nobody had ever shot lower than 65 in the final round of this championship, which inherited the LPGA Championship records going back to 1955.
Hataoka posted her 64 and waited nearly two hours before Ryu and Park finished regulation.
“I did not think I would be in the playoff, but before the tournament started, I thought double digits was a good score to reach for,” said Hataoka, who got to 10 under overall to make the playoff. “So, I’m very pleased about that.”
A par at the first playoff hole ended Hataoka’s chances, with both Ryu and Park making birdies there.
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Hataoka, still a teenager at 19, has a victory and two second-place finishes in her last six starts, six top-10 finishes in her last seven starts. She tied for 10th at the U.S. Women’s Open last month.
“I have caddied quite a few years, and I have never seen anyone with the ability and guts she has,” said Dana Derouaux, Hataoka’s caddie. “She doesn’t back down.”
In his youth, Derouaux caddied for Donna Caponi and Jan Stephenson. He said Hataoka’s ability to work the ball, to hit fades and draws and change trajectories, is impressive.
“She can move the ball as well as any player I have ever caddied for,” he said.
Derouaux said those array of shots helped her go low in the gusting winds over Kemper Lakes on Sunday. Hataoka eagled a pair of par 5s, the seventh and the 11th. She holed out from a greenside bunker at the seventh and knocked a 3-hybrid to 15 feet at the 11th hole.