The swing change that led to Nasa Hataoka’s sixth LPGA win


Michael Owens

April 24, 2022

Nasa Hataoka took charge and didn't leave room for anyone to make a run at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles. She started the final round of the DIO Implant LA Open with a four-shot lead over Hannah Green. It was the eighth time the 23-year-old from Japan had held the 54-hole lead in an LPGA Tour event. She delivered a four-under 67 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 15 under, winning by five.

Hataoka’s putter was undeniably hot at Wilshire. But the real key to her success was her long game. After missing the cut the previous week in Hawaii, Hataoka knew she needed a change. She’s been working with a new coach, new enough that she isn’t ready to share the instructor’s name; she hasn't worked with him in person yet. Instead, Hataoka has exchanged texts with the coach, who is based in Japan, and had a FaceTime lesson once she arrived in Los Angeles.

They were on the phone for an hour and a half. The issue turned out to be ball position. After playing in the wind in Hawaii, Hataoka’s ball position had crept away from her body and towards her right foot. The issue extended from her irons through her driver.

“I didn’t play good last week. I knew I had to make a change, so it wasn’t hard to try something new [this week],” Hataoka said, through a translator.

On the seventh hole of Friday’s second round at Wilshire Country Club, Hataoka said it “clicked.” The new ball position felt right. She was locked in. Over the weekend, she missed just four fairways and seven greens.

The prospect of implementing a swing change, with the help of a coach who you’ve never met in person, who’s halfway around the world, could be daunting for most. But Hataoka took the chance, and it paid off.