Japan’s Nasa Hataoka fired a stunning six-under par 66 in blustery conditions at Pebble Beach to grab a one-stroke lead after Saturday’s third round of the US Women’s Open.
Hataoka had the low round of the day by four strokes to stand on seven-under 209 after 54 holes at the iconic California seaside course.
World number 20 Hataoka, trying to become only the third Japanese woman to win a major title, beat the day’s scoring average by nearly nine shots with a magnificent display of shotmaking in a bogey-free round.
“I would say that from around the seventh hole I started to feel the wind, and of course we were at the waterfront, so it was quite different,” Hataoka said.
“Then, of course, I had some of the par saves and so compared to my last two days, I think that from the back nine onwards I did pretty well.”
American Allisen Corpuz, seeking her first professional victory, was second on 210 with compatriot Bailey Tardy and South Korean Kim Hyo-joo sharing third on 212 with South Korea’s Ryu Hae-ran and Shin Ji-yai both on 214.
“Just being in contention any week is always a little nerve-wracking but really excited, really grateful to be in this position,” Corpuz said of her place in Sunday’s final group.
“It means a ton. It’s just really special to be in the final pairing and I’m really excited and looking forward to it.”
Hataoka sank a six-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, blasted out of a bunker to within inches of the hole for a tap-in birdie at the par-5 sixth and then sank a tense nine-foot par putt at the ninth hole.
The 24-year-old Asian star sank birdie putts on the back nine from 23 feet at 10, 15 feet at the 13th, just inside 40 feet at the 16th and from 11 feet at the par-3 17th.
Hataoka is a two-time major runner-up, having shared second at the 2018 Women’s PGA Championship and two years ago at the US Women’s Open at The Olympic Club in nearby San Francisco.
She hopes to apply some lessons learned from 2021 at Olympic to her final-round fight for a major breakthrough.
“I think the quality of the greens and the grass quality is similar, and there are quite a bit of uphill areas as well as a great deal of bounce here,” she said. “So I’m hoping I can keep in mind while I’m playing tomorrow everything that I’ve learned through my putting practice and to be able to be victorious.”
Corpuz, seeking her first LPGA triumph, shared a major lead at the Chevron Championship before settling for fourth.
“It showed me that I do belong out here, that I’m definitely good enough to compete,” Corpuz said. “Just try and be a little more comfortable and let my game show itself.”
Qualifier Bailey Tardy, ranked 455th in the world, led by two when the day began but struggled to a 75.
“Struggled a little bit off the tee. Didn’t hit as many fairways as I wanted to, but super windy out there,” she said. “Proud of the way I hung in there but definitely room for improvement.”