Hataoka uses blistering closing stretch to keep Marathon lead

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Japan's Nasa Hataoka hits her tee shot on the second hole during the second round of the Marathon Classic tournament in Sylvania, Ohio

Japanese star Nasa Hataoka drained four straight birdies on the back nine en route to a 69 to maintain a two-shot lead after the second round of the LPGA Tour's Marathon Classic on Friday.

After opening with a sizzling 10-under 61, Hataoka delivered a more mixed round on Friday with six birdies and four bogeys to get to 12-under overall at the Highland Meadows Golf Club in Ohio. She missed five greens after hitting all 18 on Thursday.

“My shots were not as good as yesterday," she said. "I didn't have that many chances. I had a lot of problems, but I was able to fix that for the last part and bring it back up.”

The 22-year-old Hataoka roared to the finish with four consecutive birdies beginning on the par-three 14th to get to two under on the day.

This marks the fourth time in her career she has held the lead through 36 holes, most recently at the 2020 ShopRite Classic.

She will take a two stroke lead over American Mina Harigae into the third round of the $2 million tournament which pays the winner $300,000.

Allison Lee and Elizabeth Szokol shot identical scores (67 and 66) for the second straight day and are tied for third at nine-under.

Germany’s Esther Henseleit is in a tie for fifth at eight under where she is joined by South Korea's Chella Choi and Americans Jennifer Kupcho, Gerina Piller and Lauren Stephenson.

After shooting the lowest opening round score on the LPGA Tour is almost seven years on Thursday, Hataoka began the second round with a bogey on No. 1.

She had birdies on the third and fifth holes to reach 11 under. She made consecutive bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7 and then a three putt bogey on No. 13. That set the stage for her red-hot finish which allowed her to regain the lead.

“I did kind of look (at the leaderboard) because we had to wait along the way,” said Hataoka. “I was more trying to concentrate on my round.”

Defending champion Danielle Kang was one of 79 golfers who reached the weekend and is tied for 10th at seven under.

Tiffany Joh wrapped up her LPGA Tour career by missing the cut as she shot a one-over 73. The 11-year veteran announced before the tournament that she would retire after the tournament.

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