HATAOKA READY TO GO THE FULL 72
At age 20, Nasa Hataoka already has two LPGA Tour victories under her belt, capturing wins at the 2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship and the 2019 TOTO Japan Classic. The young Japanese phenom is certainly proud of those wins, but she also says that those victories in 54-hole events have left her craving her first 72-hole win.
Heading into Sunday’s final round of the 2019 Kia Classic, Hataoka is in prime position to finally get that elusive full-length win. Her third-round 64, tied for the second-lowest round of her LPGA career, jumped her up the leaderboard into solo second at -13, one stroke behind LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park.
“I started out playing really well, attacking the pins, and had a lot of par saves as well, good par saves,” said Hataoka, who pointed to a 30-foot par save on No. 15 as the key moment in her Saturday round. “It was overall a good day.”
THIDAPA SUWANNAPURA LIKES TO CHASE THE LEADERS
Thidapa Suwannapura finally won for the first time in her eight-year LPGA Tour career at the 2018 Marathon Classic presented by Owens Corning and O-I. With the confidence of her win, Suwannapura is maintaining her composure at Aviara going into the final round.
“I feel like anybody can have a good day and win tomorrow,” said Suwannapura, who played alongside World No. 1 Sung Hyun Park on Saturday. “I had a good day today. Just a little bit of putting on the lip and everything. A little bit of this and that.”
Suwannapura has been enjoying her week in Carlsbad and has found it easy to feel at home at her favorite local spots.
“I like the weather here and there is a restaurant that I like to go and always go. There is a smoothie place that I been there for four years in a row. I just walk in there and say, ‘Hi, I'm back,’ says Suwannapura, who usually orders a fresh fruit smoothie with acai and blueberries. “They know exactly what I want to order. It's fun.”
Suwannapura will tee off in the penultimate group, just behind leader LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and second-place Nasa Hataoka. But instead of feeling nervous, she said, “I would like to be chasing. I'll do my best tomorrow and just do my best.”
MI JUNG HUR HAS THE RIGHT MOMENTUM FOR LPGA’S FIRST MAJOR
Mi Jung Hur from the Republic of Korea set a personal best and the Kia Classic’s 18-hole scoring record on Saturday, carding a bogey-free 10-under 62; her lowest score was a 63 but that last time she shot that was in 2016. In Round 3, Hur birdied three of her first five holes and lit up the back nine making seven consecutive birdies on Nos. 11-17.
“Yeah, I got goosebumps. It was exciting playing the back nine,” said the 29-year-old, who hit nine of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. “I had great shots and great putts and made seven birdies in a row. I had another chance on 18 but I missed it. But I still like today's round.”
Though Hur came off a disappointing 2018 season, her 13th-place finish at last week’s Bank of Hope Founders Cup likely earns her a place in next week’s ANA Inspiration field. Hur feels positive heading into the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year.
“Actually, you know, I wasn't in the field next week, and then I had a good week last week and I got in the field next week, which is a major and I love to play at the ANA,” said Hur, whose best finish at the ANA Inspiration is T14 in 2016 and 2017. “With this momentum, if I keep this momentum to next week I think it's going to be good happen to me for future.”
WITH A WIN…
With the $270,000 winner’s check, Inbee Park would move from sixth to fourth on the LPGA Career Money List with $14,878,088, passing Suzann Pettersen (fifth, $14,831,968) and Lorena Ochoa (fourth, $14,863,331)
Park would earn her 20th career LPGA Tour victory, moving her into a tie for 26th with Laura Davies and Cristie Kerr
Nasa Hataoka would earn her third career LPGA Tour victory, joining fellow Japanese player Haru Nomura at that mark; the only Japanese players with more victories are Ayako Okamoto (17), Ai Miyazato (nine) and Hiromi Kobayashi (four)
Thidapa Suwannapura would become just the second Thai player with more than one LPGA Tour victory, joining Ariya Jutanugarn (10)
Rolex Rankings No. 8 Inbee Park (68-67-67)
- Park’s second- and third-round 67s are her second lowest rounds of the 2019 LPGA Tour season, she shot a 66 in the second round of the Bank of Hope Founders Cup
- She hit 12 of 14 greens and 13 of 18 fairways, with 26 putts
- Park is in her 13th season on the LPGA Tour; she is a 19-time winner including seven majors, with her last win coming at the 2018 Bank of Hope Founders Cup
- This is Park’s third event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is 14th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship
- She is competing in her 10th Kia Classic; her best finish is second in 2010 and 2016, with two additional top-10s and four top-20 finishes
Rolex Rankings No. 7 Nasa Hataoka (69-70-64)
- Hataoka’s third-round 64 is her next lowest round of her career; she shot a career-low 63 in the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship
- She hit 11 of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens
- Hataoka is in her third season on the LPG Tour; she is a two-time winner—her last win was at the 2018 TOTO Japan Classic
- This is Hataoka’s fourth event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T16 at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America
- Hataoka is competing in her third Kia Classic; her best finish is T58 in 2018, with a T59 finish in 2017
Rolex Rankings No. 90 Thidapa Suwannapura (68-66-70)
- Suwannapura’s 54-hole 203 is tied for the lowest 54-hole score of her LPGA Tour career; she shot 203 at the 2018 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, where she went on to finish T18
- She hit 13 of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, with 28 putts
- Suwannapura is in her eighth season on the LPGA Tour; she has one victory at the 2018 Marathon Classic and two other top-10 finishes
- This is Suwannapura’s seventh event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; her best finish is T17 at the ISPS Handa Vic Open and has yet to miss a single cut
- She is competing in her seventh Kia Classic; her best finish is T26 in 2018