NAPLES, FLORIDA - Nasa Hataoka took advantage of a hot putting streak Thursday to finish at 8-under 64, one shot back of leader Amy Olsen after the first round of the CME Group Tour Championship, the LPGA’s season-ending event.
On the tournament-opening par-5 first at the Tiburon Golf Club, Hataoka’s third shot landed short in a greenside bunker. Unshaken, the 19-year-old played out to 13 feet and holed her par putt, setting the scene for a bogey-free 64 that featured eight birdies and just 25 putts.
“That turned the tide today,” Hataoka said of the par save. “It’s only the first day. I am just looking to have fun.”
Hataoka is in the running to take home $1 million and the crystal globe trophy for winning the season’s points title, and if she can add the CME Group Tour Championship she will bank another $500,000.
Asked what she would do with her winnings, Hataoka said she would “buy a house that looks like a castle, like the one that’s next to the course,” she said in reference to the nearby Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
Hataoka currently sits fourth in the points race with Thursday’s round putting her in pole position for the overall title. Her rivals, Ariya Jutanugarn, Lee Minjee, Brooke Henderson and Park Sung-hyun, are deep in the pack.
Jutanugarn, the current points leader, is at 2-under, the same score as second-place Lee. If the leaderboard of the $2.5 million tournament looks the same on Sunday, Hataoka will be crowned champion, according to the LPGA.
Olsen was flawless on her way to a 63, carding nine birdies for a one-shot lead over Hataoka and fellow American Brittany Lincicome.
After shooting an even-par 72, Sakura Yokomine is in a tie for 46th, while Ayako Uehara had a poor start and sits in a tie for 64th at 2-over.