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Hinako Shibuno Places Third at Women’s British Open

“I am both frustrated and happy to get a result like this on this difficult and wonderful course,” said the golfer known as “Smiling Cinderella.”

Hinako Shibuno plays her tee shot from the fourth tee during the final round of the Women's British Open in Muirfield, Scotland, on August 7. (Scott Heppell/AP)

Hinako Shibuno led after the opening round of the Women’s British Open. And she was in contention for the title at the end of the final round on Sunday, August 7 in Muirfield, Scotland.

On the par-4 18th hole, Shibuno needed a birdie to match the overall score of South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai and South Korea’s In Gee Chun and advance to the playoff.

Instead, Shibuno missed a chip shot, which would have given her a birdie, and had to settle for par to close out the round. She finished in third place at 9-under 275.

It was an up-and-down tournament for the 2019 Women’s British Open winner. She shot a 6-under 65 in the opening round, followed by a 73, a 66 and a 71.

“I am both frustrated and happy to get a result like this on this difficult and wonderful course,” Shibuno was quoted as saying by Kyodo News. “I felt that my golf game really changed depending on the mindset I had over the four days. It was great to get back to basics and play.”

Buhai Triumphs in Playoff

Buhai, who fired a 64 in the third round on Saturday, squandered her five-shot lead entering the final round by shooting a 75 on Sunday. But she maintained her poise and defeated Chun in a four-hole playoff. In doing so, she became the third South African to win a major at Muirfield, joining British Open champions Gary Player in 1959 and Ernie Els in 2002.

“I am so proud of myself, how I dug deep to get into the playoff,” Buhai was quoted as saying by the BBC. “It’s so difficult to put into words right now. It might only hit me in a few days but obviously I’m very proud.”

For Buhai, a terrific bunker shot on the fourth playoff hole put her in perfect position for a close tap-in for the winning putt.

Speaking to reporters after the momentous occasion, Buhai said: “I was surprisingly calm. My caddie said to me on the last one, I don’t want to brag, but she said, ‘Show them why you’re No. 1 in bunkers this year.’ So, you know, she gave me the confidence. Maybe it’s got something to do with Muirfield and South Africans and bunker shots.”

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Solid Tournament for Japanese Golfers

One week after Ayaka Furue won the Women’s Scottish Open, four Japanese golfers placed in the top 15 on the leaderboard. Nasa Hataoka carded a 5-under 279 and finished in a six-way tie for seventh. Miyu Yamashita at 4-under 280 was tied for 13th, while Kotone Hori at 3-under 281 placed tied for 15th.

Furue missed the cut after carding a 4-over 75 and a 71 in the first two rounds.

Earlier this year, the 23-year-old Shibuno, known as “Smiling Cinderella,” missed the cut in a pair of majors, the Evian Championship and US Women’s Open. She also placed tied for fourth in the Chevron Championship in California in early April, followed by a runner-up finish in the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in the same month.

Shibuno primarily competed in JLPGA Tour events in the past three seasons. Now an LPGA Tour rookie, she’s focused on playing in overseas events.

Shibuno said past experiences with the natural elements in Scotland helped her make adjustments for this year’s Women’s British Open.

“Two years ago, when we were playing at Royal Troon [near Glasgow], the wind completely overtook my shots. I wasn’t thinking about how to use this to my advantage,” Shibuno told reporters on Thursday. 

“However, in this tournament I could adapt my style to the elements. I imagined my swing. If the wind was coming from the right, I could play by feel how far from the pin I needed to aim for.”


Author: Ed Odeven

Follow Ed on JAPAN Forward’s [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays, in [Odds and Evens] here during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven.

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