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  • Shibuno hangs on to lead going into final day in Women’s Open

Shibuno hangs on to lead going into final day in Women’s Open

Hinako Shibuno, of Japan, hits out of a bunker near the 18th green during the third round of the US Women's Open golf tournament, on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Houston. (AP)
Hinako Shibuno, of Japan, hits out of a bunker near the 18th green during the third round of the US Women's Open golf tournament, on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Houston. (AP)
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13 Dec 2020 08:12:57 GMT9
13 Dec 2020 08:12:57 GMT9

Arab News Japan

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno experienced the pressure of playing on the big stage after squandering a four-shot lead to go into the final day by only a single shot lead in the 75th US Women’s Open Golf tournament.

The 22-year-old Shibuno, going for her second major in as many years, was at 4-under 209 and headed for the practice range to sort out her driver, when her par putt on the final hole slid by the cup for a 3-over 74.

She still had the lead on a day so tough only two of 66 players broke par.

“All the holes seemed to be very difficult for me,” she said.

“I myself was very nervous,” she said. When asked why a major champion with an endless smile and seemingly not a care in the world would be so nervous, Shibuno replied, “Because I was on top of everybody, that’s why.”

Shibuno is trying to become only the third player to make majors their first two LPGA Tour titles. The others were In Gee Chun (2015 US Women’s Open and 2016 Evian Championship and Se Ri Pak, who won the LPGA Championship and US Women’s Open in 1998).

Shibuno won the Women’s British Open last year at Woburn, and declined to take up LPGA membership because she didn’t think she was ready. Now her only way to join the LPGA is to win on Sunday, and it doesn’t figure to be easy.

It was a tough day for everybody.

Amy Olson, who nearly holed out from the 17th fairway and finished strong for a 71 that felt much lower, lost track of how often she had mud on her golf ball.

Stacy Lewis saw her chances of winning on her home course slip away with consecutive three-putts, the second one for a triple bogey on the 14th hole.

Moriya Jutanugarn, playing in the same group as her two-time major champion sister, Ariya, was right in the mix until she bladed a bunker shot to the back of the 17th green and three-putted for a double bogey. She still managed a 72 and was three behind, among only four players who remained under par.

The other was Ji Yeong Kim2 of South Korea, who was on the opposite end of the Cypress Creek course. Kim2 made the cut with one shot to spare and shot a 67 — one of only two rounds under par — that moved her into a tie for third. Kim finished by chipping in for birdie on the par-5 ninth hole.

Eight players were separated by four shots going into the final round, a group that includes Lydia Ko (72) and Texas senior Kaitlyn Papp, who played in the final group with Shibuno and held her own until dropping two shots over the last three holes for a 74. They were at even-par 213, along with 19-year-old Yealimi Noh (72) and Megan Khang (74).

Jin Young Ko, the No. 1 player in the world and a two-time major champion, made 16 pars in her round of 71 and that was enough to at least give her a chance. She was at 1-over 214 with Women’s PGA champion Sei Young Kim (73).

All of them had to contend with a course that played 6,635 yards and felt even longer because of heavy rain Friday after the second round ended. More than length was mud that gathered on the golf ball in the fairway. That creates problems for Champions because of its enormous greens.

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