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Japan's Hataoka outlasts impressive field to win Kia Classic

Japan’s Nasa Hataoka shot a final-round 67 to cap a strong weekend and hold off an impressive field to win the Kia Classic at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, Calif., on Sunday.

Hataoka, 20, won for the third time in her last 16 LPGA starts. Her 5-under par 67 gave her an 18-under 270 in the four rounds. With her 8-under 64 in Round 3, Hataoka was 13 strokes under par for the weekend.

Five golfers finished tied for second, three strokes back. That group included playing partner and third-round leader Inbee Park, and world No. 1 Sung Hyun Park. A third South Korean, Jin Young Ko, Spain’s Azahara Munoz and American Danielle Kang rounded out the group that finished at 15-under 273.

While she didn’t threaten for the title, South Korea’s Hyo Joo Kim tied a course record with a 10-under 62 on Sunday to finish the tournament tied for seventh at 14-under 274. The round came just one day after South Korean Mi Jung Hur set the new course record in Round 3.

“I had a bit of a rocky start today; from holes 1 to 5, I missed a couple of putts,” said Kim, who made six birdies in a seven-hole stretch mid-round. “My birdies on No. 10 and 11 were probably the most important ones for the round. After making those, I just felt like I had more confidence to continue with that streak.”

Compatriots Chella Choi and Mi Jung Hur also finished at 14 under, as did Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and Thailand’s Thidapa Suwannapura.

Hataoka, expected to move up to No. 9 in the next Race to CME Globe points standings, alternated birdie-par over the first six holes Sunday. Another three pars closed out a front-nine 33, followed by a birdie on No. 10 and four more pars. But the last three holes were her most adventurous, as Hataoka went birdie-bogey-birdie to round out her day.

The bogey was only her third of the tournament, and her first since bogeying two of her first three holes in Round 2.

“Anyone can make mistakes out here,” Hataoka said. “I forgot about the bogey very quickly. I knew that 17 was a chance I could make a birdie, and just very relieved and felt great that I was able to actually get a birdie.”

Defending champion Eun-Hee Ji of South Korea fired a final-round 68 — her best round of the week — to finish tied for 23rd at 7-under 281.

–Field Level Media

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