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Nasa Hataoka two strokes back at Evian Championship

Kyodo, AP

Nasa Hataoka carded a 4-under-par 67 on Thursday and is two shots off the pace after the first round of the Evian Championship, the fifth and final major of the LPGA season.

Hataoka shot six birdies against two bogeys at the Evian Resort Golf Club and sits in a three-way tie for fourth place with Canada’s Brooke Henderson and South Korea’s Ryu So-yeon.

She had two birdies and bogeyed the final hole before the turn, but capped off a solid round with three straight birdies on the last of the front nine.

“Even though I couldn’t shoot the way I expected, I was able to find the fairway with my tee shots and create some opportunities,” Hataoka said.

“Since there are three days left, I want to finish in a good position on the leaderboard tomorrow as well.”

Spain’s Carlota Ciganda shot a bogey-free 65 and is tied for the lead at 6-under with Puerto Rico’s Maria Torres, who balanced out two bogeys with an eagle. American Austin Ernst is in third at 5-under.

Ayako Uehara shot a 3-over 74, while compatriot Sakura Yokomine is a stroke behind at 4-over.

The 19-year-old Hataoka is competing for her second LPGA trophy and first major victory. She is looking to join 1977 Women’s PGA Championship winner Hisako Higuchi as the only other Japanese to win a major on either the men’s or women’s tour.

In July, Hataoka tied for second at the Women’s PGA Championship after a three-person playoff, her best finish at a major to date. She had claimed her maiden title a week earlier at the NW Arkansas Championship in one of her eight top-10 finishes this season.

She is currently sixth on the LPGA money list and 15th in the Rolex Rankings.

Georgia Hall, a homegrown British Open champion last month, had a bogey-free 68 to stand in a big group on 3 under which included seven-time major winner Inbee Park of South Korea.

Top-ranked Park Sung-hyun had a tough day, shooting a 6-over 77 playing in the same afternoon group as Hall. The South Korean, who won the Women’s PGA Championship in July, dropped shots at four of the first five holes.

“Nothing went well,” Park said through a translator. “It was a very disappointing day.”