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With four birdies in her final five holes on Saturday at the Marathon LPGA Classic, Nasa Hataoka set up what could become a runaway victory at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio. All those birdies – plus four more on the front nine and only one bogey – added up to a 7-under 64 for the 22-year-old from Japan. Remarkably, it’s the second-lowest score Hataoka has posted just this week after opening with 61.
At 19 under, Hataoka now leads Elizabeth Szokol and Mina Harigae by six shots. She also owns a new 54-hole scoring record at the long-running LPGA event.
“When I first was here, it was my rookie year and I really played awful, so when I’m playing the way I am right now, it really makes me think how much I grew up, how much better I’ve gotten,” said Hataoka, who knocked in eight birdies and one three-putt bogey on Saturday. “Right now I’m not going to think about the winning. I’m just going to concentrate on playing the best.”
Should Hataoka be able to finish the job on Sunday, she would earn her fourth victory and tie Hiromi Kobayashi as the winningest Japanese LPGA Tour player.
Harigae and Szokol, meanwhile, are looking to become first-time winners on the LPGA. Harigae already hit a bit of a personal milestone by playing in Saturday’s final group for the first time in her career – something she’ll do again on Sunday.
“I’ve seen the scores out here. Some girls, you can go really low out here, but you just never know. Golf is a funny game,” said Harigae, who shot a 3-under 68 on Saturday. “I think if I just keep my head down and keep going forward, it might pan out.”
Hataoka wasn’t the only player to go exceptionally low on Saturday. Yuka Saso, the recent U.S. Women’s Open winner, also fired a 64. Hers included an eagle at the par-4 ninth.
With that hot round, Saso reached 11 under, and is still eight shots off the lead.