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Nasa Hataoka one shot off lead at NW Arkansas Championship

Kyodo

Nasa Hataoka finished the first round of the NW Arkansas Championship among the seven players tied for second place at 7-under-par 64 on Friday, with Mexico’s Gaby Lopez holding a one-shot lead.

While Lopez shot a career-low 63 to take sole possession of the lead at the Pinnacle Country Club, the 19-year-old Hataoka carded eight birdies and had only one blemish on her scorecard, a bogey on the par-5 14th hole.

Hataoka said she had planned to play aggressively in the three-day, 54-hole event and did so, jumping out early and sinking a 23-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fifth. She read the greens with improved accuracy after the turn and made four birdies from No. 15.

“I made my short putts and played a good round,” said Hataoka, who is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

“I was able to improve my long game in the back nine. I hope to hit consistent tee shots again and increase my iron distance tomorrow,” she said.

Also for Japan, Ayako Uehara and Harukyo Nomura sat in a tie for 79th at 1-under 70.

Uehara, who only had one birdie, regretted that she was not able to enjoy a birdie-fest like many others in the field, saying “if I don’t convert chances I won’t score well. I hope to do better tomorrow.”

Nomura said missing short putts hurt her score, and mistakes in key situations ruined her rhythm.

“I want to close out at 5-under tomorrow,” she said.