NAPLES, Fla. — Despite valiant efforts from both players throughout the week at Tiburón Golf Club, Nasa Hataoka and Alison Lee ultimately finished in a tie for second at 24-under, falling to champion Amy Yang by three shots at the CME Group Tour Championship. Hataoka fought hard on Sunday to capture her seventh career LPGA Tour victory and held the solo lead many times during the final round, but it was a bogey on the par-3 16th hole that snuffed out her chances of taking home the $2 million winner’s check.
While she was certainly disappointed not to come out on top in Naples, Fla., Hataoka still has plenty to hang her hat on after a solid week at Tiburón Golf Club. The T2 is her best result of the 2023 LPGA Tour season and is the highest she has finished on Tour since winning the DIO Implant LA Open in April of 2022. The 24-year-old recorded all four rounds in the 60s for the first time since the 2022 FREED GROUP Women’s Scottish Open presented by Trust Golf, and her first-round 63 tied her second-lowest career round on the LPGA Tour, which she last shot on day two of the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G.
The tie for second is also Hataoka’s seventh top-10 finish of the season and fourth top five and is her second runner-up result at the CME Group Tour Championship, joining a solo second that came in 2021. This year is just the third time since Hataoka joined the LPGA Tour that she hasn’t picked up at least one victory, and while she’s pleased with her consistency this season, the Japan native thrives on winning.
“Amy was playing really good. I’m not enough as Amy,” said Hataoka of her final round at the CME Group Tour Championship. “I think being in the top 10 seven times (this season) is really good. I think the winning is something more important for me, so just going to keep trying for it.”
Lee just couldn’t seem to catch up during the final round, working as hard as she could to chase down Yang, but couldn’t complain about her 6-under 66 on Sunday. The 66 was her ninth straight round in the 60s as Lee also recorded all four rounds in the 60s at last week’s ANNIKA driven by Gainbridge at Pelican, and this week marked her third straight runner-up performance on the LPGA Tour, joining her solo second at the BMW Ladies Championship and her T2 at The ANNIKA.
With the $445,000 check she earned this week at the CME Group Tour Championship, Lee surpassed the $1 million mark in season earnings for the first time since joining the LPGA Tour in 2015, and her tie for second is now her career-best result at Tiburón Golf Club. After what’s been a whirlwind year for Lee and the rest of her LPGA Tour counterparts, she will now have some time to properly reflect on what she’s most proud of accomplishing this season.
For now, though, Lee is glad that she put up a fight on Sunday and throughout the last three weeks, something she wasn’t sure she’d be able to do after such an exhausting season. She’s also incredibly happy with how she’s bucked up in the big moments lately, never backing down from the challenges being thrown her way and always going down swinging, no matter the scenario in which she finds herself.
“I’m honestly just proud I kept it together coming down the last few events of the year. I felt like I was so tired, out of gas. I felt like I wasn’t going to make it to the end of the season. I almost withdrew from (The ANNIKA) because I was like, I need some rest before the last event of the year,” Lee said. “I’m glad I didn’t and put up a fight and really happy I put myself in contention, especially after last week. Just really grateful and happy that I’m in this place.
“So many times I would joke around saying I’m just never going to win out here. I really didn’t think I could ever do it. But to play the last three weeks just continuously putting the pressure on everyone on the leaderboard and putting myself in contention has just been really cool for me and been a really awesome experience. It sucks to come second place three times, but I’ve enjoyed every second of it and it’s been amazing.”