After Open playoff loss, Hataoka shares lead at Meijer LPGA Classic


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Nasa Hataoka had a share of the Meijer LPGA Classic lead Thursday in her first event since losing a playoff in the U.S. Women’s Open.

The 22-year-old Japanese player birdied three of the last five holes at Blythefield Country Club to match Leona Maguire, Charley Hull and Lauren Stephenson at 7-under 65.

Two weeks ago in the Women’s Open at Olympic Club in San Francisco, Hataoka lost to Yuka Saso on the third playoff hole.

She was bogey-free Thursday, birdieing four holes in a five-hole stretch on the front nine and adding birdies on the par-5 14th, par-4 16th and par-5 18th.

Hull played the last five holes in 5 under with long eagle putts on the 14th and 18th and a birdie on 16.

Min Lee was 8 under at one point, but fell back to finish at 6 under.

Lexi Thompson, who won the Classic in 2015, finished the day tied for 11th place at 4 under. Brooke Henderson, the reigning champ, finished 4 over, tied at 127th.

Golfers were happy to see plenty of spectators on the course, something that has been missing during the pandemic.

“The fans following us today, it was a lot of fun because my whole family is here and then their friends are here cheering for me, too,” Lee said. “Making the birdie, they were just screaming. And I was just happy that I can have that with me.”

“It’s so nice,” Maguire agreed. “This is our first event to have tents up again and have people walking around. And it’s nice to hit a good shot and have people clap and cheering you on. So hopefully this is a sign of things to come and it’s nice to have fans back out here for sure.”

The Classic continues Friday and runs through Sunday.

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