SYLVANIA, Ohio — Nasa Hataoka parred the final two holes to miss a chance for the second 59 in LPGA Tour history, finishing with a 10-under 61 and a 4-stroke lead Thursday in the Marathon LPGA Classic.
Annika Sorenstam is the only player to shoot 59 on the LPGA Tour, accomplishing the feat in her 2001 Standard Register Ping victory at Moon Valley in Arizona.
“When I had my ninth birdie, it kind of did come to my mind,” Hataoka said. “But then, after only having two holes [left], I just thought how great Annika was more than me getting it.”
Hataoka was a stroke off the Highland Meadows record of 60 set by Paula Creamer in 2008. The 22-year-old Japanese player had her lowest score on the LPGA Tour, topping a third-round 63 in her 2018 NWA Championship victory.
“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,” Hataoka said.
After starting on the back nine, Hataoka had six straight birdies on Nos. 15-2 and added three in a row on Nos. 5-7 before closing the bogey-free round with the two pars.
“I didn’t feel any pressure on myself or didn’t feel way good,” Hataoka said. “Everything was just right at the center, so I guess I would say it was the zone, yes. I was able to control everything.”
The three-time LPGA Tour winner lost a playoff to Yuka Saso a month ago in the U.S. Women’s Open at Olympic Club.
Lauren Stephenson was second after a 65. She also missed a chance to go lower on her final two holes, finishing with two pars on the par-5 17th and 18th.
“I took all of last week off,” Stephenson said. “I didn’t touch a club for eight days, so I really just rested and recovered. I felt pretty tired at KPMG because that was my sixth week, so I knew I needed to just take a good break.”
Matilda Castren was another stroke back at 66 with Ariya Jutanugarn, Mina Harigae, Yealimi Noh and Ssu-Chia Cheng.
Castren won last month in California at foggy Lake Merced to become the first Finnish winner in LPGA Tour history. She was second behind Jin Young Ko last week in the Volunteers of America Classic in Texas.
Defending champion Danielle Kang opened with a 70.