Nasa Hataoka’s stellar day highlights Saturday at 2023 U.S. Women’s Open

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — The toughest day at Pebble Beach Golf Links was also the most spectacular. The winds kicked up, gusting up to 25 mph on Saturday at the U.S. Women’s Open and for the first day this week, the sun broke though.

At day’s end, only six players were under par for the championship, and only one player managed to break 70 on the day. That player was Nasa Hataoka, arguably the best player on tour without a major. Hataoka carded a sparkling bogey-free 66 to vault to the top of the board.

South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim, already a major winner at the 2014 Evian Chamiponship, is the highest-ranked player in contention. Kim, No. 8 in the world, trails by three.

Here are five takeaways from Pebble Beach:

Nasa Hataoka looking to finish at a major

Nasa Hataoka fired the lowest round of the championship, a 6-under 66, on the windiest day. The Japansese player, a six-time LPGA winner, has come up short in two previous major championships in playoffs, including the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open at The Olympic Club.

The 24-year-old Hataoka leads the field this week in Strokes Gained: Putting. She credited the change to work she started three weeks ago with her coach, who also works with Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.

“I would say that prior to that I felt that my strokes were not as good as they should have been,” said Hataoka, “and I didn’t think that the way the ball was tumbling around, that was not very stable beforehand.

“But thanks to the work I started three weeks ago, I think I was able to manage very well today.”

2023 U.S. Women's Open
Nasa Hataoka reacts after she chips in a birdie shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Allisen Corpuz remains in position

Allisen Corpuz bogeyed the 18th hole to fall one back of Hataoka entering the final round. The 29th-ranked player in the world, Corpuz graduated from USC with a Masters in Global Supply Chain Management, a Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics as well as a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability and Business.

Corpuz took an extra year in college after the pandemic and was a rookie on the LPGA last season.

“Didn’t quite feel ready for pro golf at that time,” she said, “and just figured that that extra year would help me develop a little bit more, and I think it’s definitely helped a lot.”

A steady player with a strong iron game, Corpuz bested fellow Hawaiian Michelle Wie West as the youngest qualifier in U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links history at 10 years, 3 months and nine days.

2023 U.S. Women's Open
Allisen Corpuz prepares to putt on the second green during the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Link. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

'Toughest golf course I've ever played'

Bailey Tardy calls Pebble Beach the toughest golf course she’s ever played. The 36-hole overnight leader shot 75 on Saturday to drop into a share of third, three strokes back.

“I was leading the U.S. Open after two days,” said the long-bombing Bailey. “I think there was a little bit of nerves involved today.”

Nothing about Tardy’s season thus far would’ve pointed to her strong play this week. The LPGA rookie, currently ranked 455th in the world, has finished inside the top 50 only once this season prior to this week. Tardy recently hired short game coach Gareth Raflewski, who has worked with a number of LPGA major champions.

2023 U.S. Women's Open
Bailey Tardy hits a tee shot on the third hole during the third round of the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Link. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Jiyai Shin playing for family

Jiyai Shin left the LPGA more than a decade ago to play full time on the Japan LPGA, where she recently won her 30th title there. Shin has 64 titles worldwide, including two Women’s British Opens.  This week marks her first time competing in the U.S. since 2019. Nicknamed the Final-round Queen, Shin heads into Sunday five strokes back.

Shin said she signed up to play in this championship in part to inspire her grandmother, who sadly passed away last month.

“Actually, she came to my dream two weeks ago,” said Shin, “and I won that tournament in Japan. I think she still holds my hand.”

2023 U.S. Women's Open
2023 U.S. Women's Open

Rose Zhang lurking

Rose Zhang knows she’ll need to be aggressive on Sunday to have a chance at her first major title. But that might not mean what people think.

“I have said that over the weekend I wanted to be somewhat aggressive,” said Zhang, “but the definition of aggressive here at Pebble is completely different from other golf courses.

“Because the greens are so tiny and because there’s less room to get the ball on the green, with the winds picking up, with the tomorrow probably being a little firmer I’m assuming, you can’t really be aggressive-aggressive.”

Zhang owns the women’s course record at Pebble Beach, a 63, which she shot last fall during the a collegiate event called the Carmel Cup. The LPGA rookie sits in a share of ninth after three rounds, eight shots back. The record for largest comeback in U.S. Women’s Open history is five strokes, which has occurred on eight different occasions.

So what does aggressive look like on Sunday at Pebble?

“Definition of aggressive would probably be hit greens,” said Zhang. “That’s it. Center of the greens and then you putt around.”

2023 U.S. Women's Open
2023 U.S. Women's Open

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek