Nasa Hataoka opens 6-stroke lead in Marathon LPGA Classic

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Nasa Hataoka, of Japan, pumps her fist after a birdie putt on the 18th hole during the third round of the Marathon LPGA Classic golf tournament at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Sylvania, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — Nasa Hataoka opened a six-stroke lead Saturday in the Marathon LPGA Classic, birdieing four of the last five holes for a 7-under 64.

A month after losing a playoff to Yuka Saso in the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club, Hataoka has led wire-to-wire at Highland Meadows to put herself in position for her fourth LPGA Tour victory.

“I think the original thinking of this course was that it was a very narrow course so it might be difficult for me,” Hatoaka said. “Then it came out to be that the narrow makes it easier to get to the target, so I think this is what was good.”

Hataoka had a tournament-record 19-under 194 total. The 22-year-old Japanese player opened with a 10-under 61 on Thursday and had a 69 on Friday. She has played Nos. 14-18 in 4 under each of the three days.

“I think last five holes are usually the place where you really have to concentrate and try for the birdies,” Hatoaka said. “I think that kind of clicked and gave me those birdies.”

Americans Elizabeth Szokol (67) and Mina Harigae (66) were 13 under.

“I’ve seen the scores out here.” Harigae said. “Some girls — you can go really low out here. But you just never know. Golf is a funny game. I think if I just keep my head down and keep going forward, it might pan out.”

Esther Henseleit had a 67 to get to 12 under, and Saso (64) was another stroke back with Amy Yang (65), Austin Ernst (66) and Caroline Masson (66).

“My ball-striking was so bad today,” Henseleit said. “I think I hit one good iron shot today, so it really was a grind out there. I made a lot of up-and-downs. Holed a few good putts. It just wasn’t that easy out there for me today.”

Defending champion Danielle Kang (68) was 10 under in a group that included Stacy Lewis (65), Brittany Lincicome (67) and Jennifer Kupcho (69).

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