With scoring once again quite low at Taiheiyo Club Minori Course in the Tokyo suburbs, a four-under 68 may have been Stephanie Meadow’s best round of the week so far, but she still fell further behind with the leading duo each shooting -6.
Starting on the back nine, the Jordanstown woman made five birdies including two sets of back-to-back red numbers at 12 and 13 and at one and two, with an additional birdie at the sixth and a bogey at 15 effectively cancelling each other out.
The 68 sees her climb seven spots up to a share of 51st in the penultimate regular season LPGA event, and it looks as though she’ll need a big performance at next week’s event back in Florida to book her place in the 60-player, season-ending CME Globe Championship.
It continues to be a strong showing from the home favourites with the leading four all hailing from the land of the rising sun. LPGA stalwart Nasa Hataoka can’t seem to shake off 20-year-old JLPGA upcoming star Shiho Kuwaki who matched the six-time LPGA winner’s 66 and they’ll again play alongside one another in the final round.
Kuwaki, whose only win came as a fresh-faced 18-year-old will have it all to do but living just 10 minutes from the course, she enjoys a familiarity advantage with the layout, if not quite the level of competition.
“I am very happy I shot a 6-under today. I play good today,” Hataoka said. “Still my putting was good but my tee shot was only six time hit on the fairway so I need to improve my long game… (On putting) I just focus on start line and speed control.”
24-year-old Hataoka’s last LPGA win came 18 months ago at the DIO Implant LA Open, but a pair of top-five finishes at the US Womens Open and the Evian Championship signalled that she was finding her form once more and she now has an excellent opportunity to get win number seven on both the LPGA and the JLPGA.