Nasa Wins LA Open, Norman Gets An Open Rejection
Nasa Hataoka sets herself up as a U.S. Women’s Open favorite with win. Plus, Ko's 17th-hole fiasco, rangefinders on the LPGA Tour, Greg Norman continues to need attention and a weekend recap.
Charming centenarian Wilshire Country Club allowed the world’s best to show off their skills, this time producing Nasa Hataoka’s dominant LA Open victory over Hannah Green. We’ll also consider Saturday’s 18th quadruple bogey by World No. 1 Jin Young Ko, complain about the LPGA’s rangefinder policy and, saving the least for last, review Greg Norman’s micro-flirtation with this year’s Open at St Andrews.
Nasa Hataoka Wins At Her Pace
Nasa Hataoka won Sunday’s DIO Implant LA Open on Saturday. Grouped with the much faster Jin Young Ko and bordering-on-impatient-fast Hannah Green of Australia, Hataoka never deviated from her modest pace en route to a third round 67. Because Friday night’s rains delayed Saturday’s to clean storm runoff debris from the 18th green, the LPGA sent the players out in threesomes and Hataoka drew arguably the two best female golfers of 2022. She did not appear phased nor did Hataoka budge from her thorough analysis of every shot she plays.
I would not call the 23-year-old slow. But she takes in loads of information for most shots and can, at times, set up shop on the greens. Meanwhile Green is quick to the point you wonder if she might be in too much of a hurry. Ko, the third member of Saturday’s group plays at a normal pace.
At one point Saturday, Hataoka used the restroom after teeing off on the par-4 14th and was last to reach her ball but she had the honor. She waved Green on to play her approach. Hataoka and caddie Gregory Johnston then went on and processed the shot at her normal speed, eventually landing a wedge approach about three feet for her fourth birdie.
There was never any sense of conflict as Hataoka and Green are friends who are frequent practice rounds playing partners.
“I've known Nasa for years,” Green said. “We played amateur golf together. She's obviously a very successful player, but it was really nice to be alongside her winning and just along for the ride. She holed some great putts and you got to take them while you can here because sometimes you can miss some short ones.”
Hataoka continued her mastery of Wilshire in Sunday’s final round by making four front nine birdies and a 15th hole eagle. In route to a final round 68, Hataoka displayed creativity around the greens and displayed a willingness to even use a fairway wood for recover shots around Wilshire’s tight-mow green surrounds.
After her win, Hataoka also revealed that last week’s missed cut fueled a 90-minute video chat with a new coach in Japan. The unnamed instructor suggested a ball position fix. This was a first:
Q. What's your coach's name?
NASA HATAOKA: He's not like officially like working together. Just kind of like -- I haven't met him in person yet so I don't know if we can say that or not.
I know it's strange situation.
Hataoka’s sixth win on the LPGA Tour was also inspired by Jordan Spieth.
“he missed the cut at the Masters and then won Heritage,” she revealed. “You never know what's going to happen in golf, so I think that was something that boosted my confidence.”
Given the previous week’s play and Hataoka’s dominance of a quality field featuring 17 of the world top 25, she should be dangerous at upcoming major venues. Tackling Wilshire’s clever Norman MacBeth design in a nice mix of conditions made this a nice preview week for upcoming majors at Pine Needles, Congressional and Muirfield.
More from Hataoka’s victory:
15-under-par, only player to post four rounds in the 60’s
Moves from 27th to 7th on the Race to the CME Globe Points List with $406,606 earned in 2022.
Sixth top 10 of 2022
She earns $225,000; she has earned $406,606 this season and $5,571,097 in her career.
Hataoka represented Japan at the 2020 Olympics with a T9 result
She was named Nasa after the American space program because her mother wanted her to accomplish a lot and dream big. Maybe my autocorrect is onto something when it keeps converting her name to all caps.
She says if she wasn’t a golfer, she would be an astronaut because she wants to go to space.
She’s Human: Jin Young Ko’s Rough Saturday Finish
Late in Saturday’s third round, Jin Young Ko pulled her second shot into Wilshire’s 17th hole barranca. A strange unraveling ensued where the seemingly unflappable, relentlessly composed World No. 1 took two tries to get out of the hazard before taking the first 8 of her career. She went from setting up a final round showdown with Hataoka to falling six strokes back, only to birdie the par-3 18th and get within five. But a Sunday 75 suggested Ko was still rattled by such an out-of-character blunder.
“I’m absolutely stunned,” said Golf Channel’s on course commentator and former Women’s Open champion Karen Stupples as the situation unfolded. She wasn’t the only one. Silence fell over the charming clubhouse area where fans can take in action on the 15th green, 16th tee, 17th green and 18th hole.
There was no shortage of second-guessing over Ko’s decision to play her ball after replays showed the first shot did not come close to clearing the barranca’s concrete-reinforced wall. Some blamed Ko’s veteran caddie David Brooker for not talking her out of the shot, but she’s such an assertive player rarely in trouble. Plus, it appeared doable thanks the an uphill lie on some packed mud.
“Seventeen was big mistake,” said Ko after the round. “But this is golf. I don't have regret.”
Ko’s far from the first to fall victim to Wilshire’s unusual hazard. In the 1931 L.A. Open, Joe Turnesca took eight tries to extricate himself from the barranca fronting the nearby 15th green. He ended up making a 13.