Inami Wins LPGA Japan Classic after Hataoka Collapse
16:26 JST, November 5, 2023
OMITAMA, Ibaraki (AFP-Jiji) — Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Mone Inami won the LPGA Japan Classic on Sunday after overnight co-leader Nasa Hataoka fell apart in the final round.
Inami, who beat New Zealand’s Lydia Ko in a playoff to finish second behind American Nelly Korda at the Tokyo Games two years ago, began the day one shot behind Hataoka and Japanese compatriot Shiho Kuwaki.
Inami steadily worked her way into the lead at the Taiheiyo Club’s Minori Course, hitting four birdies and a bogey in a three-under-par round of 69.
But Hataoka plummeted out of contention, managing just one birdie alongside a bogey and a double-bogey to card a 74 and finish four shots off the pace.
Inami finished on 22-under 266, a stroke ahead of Kuwaki and South Korea’s Bae Seon-woo, who shot a 67.
Inami, who has 12 wins on Japan’s JLPGA Tour, recorded her first LPGA victory on her fifth start on the elite circuit, and is now eligible to take up LPGA Tour membership for the remainder of this season and the whole of 2024.
Ten of the world’s top 30 players were competing as the LPGA finished its four-event Asian swing with a tournament co-sanctioned with the JLPGA.
Several players made a final-round push, including South Korean veteran Shin Ji-yai, who carded a 65 that included six birdies and one eagle to one bogey.
Shin finished two shots off the lead alongside China’s Lin Xiyu, who looked to have fallen out of contention after a strong start earlier in the week.
Lin, who was looking for her first career win after two runner-up finishes this year, hit six birdies and one bogey in a round of 67.
Defending champion Gemma Dryburgh of Scotland also made a furious late challenge, hitting seven birdies in a bogey-free 65 to finish just three shots off the lead.
Dryburgh finished on 19-under alongside Thailand’s Jasmine Suwannapura, who finished third behind France’s Celine Boutier and Thailand’s Atthaya Thitikul at last week’s Maybank Championship in Kuala Lumpur.
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