Hometown hero Nasa Hataoka moved closer to her seventh career win on Saturday as she headed into the final day of the Japan Classic tied for the lead with Shiho Kuwaki.
Japan’s Hataoka, who lives just 20 minutes away from the Taiheiyo Club’s Minori Course, around 100km northeast of Tokyo, hit seven birdies and one bogey to card a six-under 66.
That put her on 20 under overall alongside compatriot Kuwaki, who hit eagles on the 12th and 17th holes.
Hataoka, who is still looking for her first win of 2023, birdied the 17th to haul herself back level with Kuwaki, who also had two birdies in a bogey-free round of 66.
The leading pair sit one shot ahead of Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Mone Inami and two in front of Sora Kamiya.
Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura was in a group four strokes behind the leaders after carding a 66.
Suwannapura, who finished third behind France’s Celine Boutier and Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul at last week’s Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur, fired six birdies in a bogey-free round.
American Rose Zhang was a stroke further back after a 65 that included eight birdies and one bogey.
But China’s Lin Xiyu, who began the day two shots off the lead, slipped back to join Zhang on 15 under after hitting three bogeys in a round of 69.
Scotland’s defending champion Gemma Dryburgh fell back to 12 under.
South Africa’s Paula Reto is three-under 213 (T70) after carding 71 on Saturday.
Ten of the world’s top 30 players are competing as the LPGA finishes its Asian swing with a tournament co-sanctioned with Japan’s JLPGA.
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