LOS ANGELES - After 54 holes at the DIO Implant LA Open, Nasa Hataoka took control of the top spot on the leaderboard and will cruise into the final day with a four-shot lead at -11 overall. The 23-year-old carded a Saturday 67 after five birdies on holes 2, 7, 9, 14 and 16 along with one bogey and holds the eighth 54-hole lead of her Tour career.
During yesterday's round something clicked inside me and I was able to bring that to today's round, too. I think that really helped me today,” said Hataoka. “All of my birdies except 9, they were inside 15 feet, so I feel like I was putting really good. Especially afternoon the Poa annua greens are really tricky, but I feel like I was able to adjust to that.”
Hataoka has never finished worse than a tie for second after leading through the first three days of play. On Sunday, she’ll go for her sixth win on Tour and first this season. “To be honest, I didn't expect this position at the beginning of this week,” said Hataoka. “But like I said, something clicked inside me during yesterday's round so I'll try to keep that momentum going forward for tomorrow's round.”
The Japanese native will play alongside friend Hannah Green, who is solo second at -7 after posting a 2-under 69. Green started strong with a birdie on the early par-5 2nd, but her front nine evened out after a bogey on 6. Two more birdies on Nos. 13 and 14 moved her right back into contention as well as into the final group on Sunday.
“I felt pretty flat with the putter today. Felt like I missed a lot of putts high and just a little bit too firm, so I feel like if I can get my speed control I can see a lot of putts going in,” said Green, who is going for her first win on Tour since the 2019 Cambia Portland Classic. “But I feel like I haven't played my entire best, so I'm hoping tomorrow I can kind of get everything to go my way and try and put as much pressure on Nasa as possible.”
A trio of Koreans sit in a tie for third at -6: major champions Inbee Park and Jin Young Ko, along with Haeji Kang, who has carded three consecutive 69s. Ko challenged Hataoka from the start, as the two traded and were tied for the lead throughout the day with Ko carding birdies on Nos. 2, 13 and 15 to get to as low as -10. After a bogey on 16, Ko recorded a quadruple bogey on 17, the first one of her LPGA Tour career. Her second shot landed in the mud below the green, hitting the wall and bouncing back to her. Ko’s third shot did the same, with her fourth landing in the water. After taking a drop and two-putting, she recorded an 8 and walked to the 18th tee at -5, ultimately making a birdie on the final hole that felt like a sigh of relief.
“I thought if I make par still good, but I make birdie on last hole. Especially last hole is huge for next round, for the prepare. So I played not bad; just 17 was big mistake,” said Ko. “But this is golf. I don't have regret.”
Chella Choi, UCLA alum Lilia Vu and major champion Minjee Lee are tied for sixth at -4, with five players tied for fifth at -3, including California native Yealimi Noh.
“I've been working on the same thing for a while now, and just kind of getting that confidence back,” said Noh, who notched a 5-under 66 on a day with seven birdies and two bogeys. “I definitely think the last few days have helped with that, just getting confidence and seeing the ball go in.”