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After Nasa Hataoka made her ninth birdie of the day, shooting 59 crossed her mind for the first time on Thursday at the Marathon Classic. She had three holes left to play.
Hataoka carded her 10th birdie on the seventh hole (her 16th) at Highland Meadows Golf Club and then parred in to post a personal-best 10-under 61.
Paula Creamer holds the course record of 60 at Highland Meadows, carded in the first round in 2008. Twenty years ago, Annika Sorenstam shot the only 59 in tour history. There have been five 60s on the LPGA, with Jessica Korda recording the most recent at the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions.
“Everything was just right at the center,” said Hataoka, “so I guess I would say it was the zone, yes. I was able to control everything.”
Hataoka, 22, birdied six consecutive holes starting on No. 15 (her sixth hole), a personal record. Her previous best round on the LPGA was 63.
“I think what was really working is I was able to control my iron shots to make sure I could get close to the pin to get the birdies,” said Hataoka, who’d been focusing on that part of her game since she missed the cut at the KPMG Women’s PGA.
Hataoka, a three-time winner on the LPGA who will represent Japan next month at Summer Games in Tokyo, built an early four-shot lead over Lauren Stephenson, who carded a bogey-free 65. The former Alabama star said she didn’t touch a club for eight days coming into this event.
“I felt pretty tired at KPMG because that was my sixth week,” she said, “so I knew I needed to just take a good break.”
Stephenson has two top 10s in her last six starts, finding momentum after she borrowed a putter from her host family at the HUGEL-AIR PREMIA LA Open.
“I obviously haven’t won,” said Stephenson, “but I know it’s around the corner at some point.
“I know I’m good enough to be out here, so just keeping my name up there and doing as well as I can is always the goal.”