John Niyo and Matt Charboneau preview the LPGA and PGA Champions events, which wrap up in Michigan today. The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — There’s something to be said about momentum.
At least, that’s what Nasa Hataoka has to be thinking after the second round of the Volvik Championship at Travis Pointe Country Club.
Following a 4-under 67 on Friday, the second-year pro finds herself sitting atop the leaderboard, one shot clear of Minjee Lee, who had four birdies through 11 holes but stalled out near the end of the round to shoot 3-under 69.
Hataoka entered Friday’s second round having gone bogey-free over her four previous rounds and entered the tournament after losing in a three-way playoff last week at the Kingsmill Championship.
It was the second of two consecutive top-10 finishes for the medalist from last fall’s LPGA Qualifying Tournament, who hasn’t finished worse than 19th in the last four events.
It’s been quite the surge for a player who made just nine cuts last season as a rookie.
“I made a couple bogeys today but I made a lot of birdies, so it's kind of keep momentum I can play,” Hataoka said. “Yeah, I just couldn't believe the bogey-free rounds and I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to aggressive and then I make a lot of putts and, you know, I hit it great.”
She managed seven birdies on the round, her bogey-free streak ending at the par-14 13th, her fourth hole of the day.
“I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,” the 19-year-old Hataoka said. “I've really got confidence now. I play my game, that's my key.”
Several players had a shot to overtake Hataoka in the afternoon, namely Lee. She was cruising on the front nine and moved into a tie with Hataoka after a birdie at No. 11.
However, a mishit approach on the par-5 14th ended up in the water and led to a bogey as Lee couldn’t get a putt to drop down the stretch.
“I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny or underneath it so it sort of, I don't know, skulled, I guess, and went in the water,” Lee said. “I made a mistake, but I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.”
Despite the poor shot, the 15th-ranked player in the world who finished tied for second in last year’s Volvik Championship wasn’t lamenting her finish following the round.
“I hit it pretty solid all day,” Lee said “Probably didn't hole as many putts as I would have liked to, but I think I'm in a really good position going into the weekend. I'm happy with where I am.”
Lee will have plenty of company over the weekend in her effort to chase down Hataoka as 20 players are within five shots of the lead.
Gaby Lopez, Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Lindy Duncan were all at 7-under following the second round while another six players were at 6-under, including Danielle Kang, who held a share of the first-round lead but never got things rolling.
Lopez had one of the more erratic rounds of the day, recording eight birdies — the most in the second round — but adding four bogies to finish with a 4-under 68.
“Yeah, it was a little bit of an up and down,” Lopez said. “I started off with a birdie and then a couple mistakes in the middle of the round. But, you know, there's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.
“But I had a lot of fun, my caddie and I had a lot of fun and I think that's the key for success.”
Ariya Jutanugarn — the 2016 Volvik champion — and her sister, Moriya, were each at 6-under, as were Julieta Granada, Georgia Hall and Bronte Law, who was on pace for the low round of the day before a double-bogey at No. 8 — her 17th hole of the day — left her with a 4-under 68.
“Bronte's awesome,” playing partner Stacy Lewis said. “The first time I really played with her and just very impressive. Definitely just has the attitude and kind of that moxie. She plays quick and plays confident and she's got all the tools to win out here one day.”
Lewis is no slouch, either, and the two-time major champion sits at 5-under for the tournament, just four shots back after carding a 4-under 68 on Friday.
“I've just been hitting the ball good,” Lewis said. “I actually hit it better yesterday, I hit 17 greens yesterday. Hit a few less today but the putts were going in, that was the only difference. They were a touch closer, which always helps. Just getting in a groove with my swing. I've been working on things the last couple weeks and it's starting to feel better.”