Women's British Open

Shibuno - Smiling Cinderella or assassin?

Hinako Shibuno (right) waiting for South Africa's Ashleigh Buhai to play during the third round of the Women's British Open at Woburn Gold Club in England on Saturday. PHOTO:ASSOCIATED PRESS
Hinako Shibuno (right) waiting for South Africa's Ashleigh Buhai to play during the third round of the Women's British Open at Woburn Gold Club in England on Saturday. PHOTO:ASSOCIATED PRESS

MILTON KEYNES • Hinako Shibuno has a disarming smile and an interesting swing that sees the rookie golfer turn her double-jointed arms nearly fully.

But be charmed, at one's peril, by the 20-year-old they nickname the Smiling Cinderella. Whether the slipper fits or not at the Women's British Open, she has already shown she is a huge talent and could slay some big reputations.

Shibuno, who is playing outside Japan for the first time but has won twice on the Japanese LPGA Tour this year, including one of its Majors in May, had a dramatic turnaround from six back to take the third-round lead.

She had six birdies on a back nine of 30 for a five-under 67 to move to 202, two clear of Ashleigh Buhai, the overnight leader who stumbled badly, dropping shots at the 12th, 13th and 16th to settle for a 72.

"I think it was because I was smiling after my first win in Japan," said Shibuno about her nickname on the LPGA website.

"I'm also called Smiling Angel. I passed the professional golfer's test just last year in Japan and I really can't understand why I am performing like this. It is a four-day tournament that makes you vomit, and I never want to do it again."

But one would not know by the way she was swinging smoothly and playing quickly on Saturday on the Woburn Golf Club, a woodlands layout that has ironically suited her game.

She admitted: "I came to the British Open thinking it would be a links course. It's parkland, just like Japan, so I think that has helped."

She missed only two fairways and one green but also showed her ability to turn it around after bogeys on the fifth and ninth to fall five behind.

She said: "I was pretty upset after the three-putt bogey on the ninth. But after the second shot on the 10th, I was able to bring myself back."

Buhai, the South African who has never won on the LPGA Tour, will know what it felt like being an emerging star.

The 30-year-old turned pro at 18 and won the 2007 Catalonia Ladies Masters in her third event but has just three European tour titles to show for.

At No. 12, she ruined her steady play, after opening with rounds of 65 and 67, with her first bogey since No. 11 in the first round - and made two more bogeys coming in for a 38.

Still, she could barely believe she was playing in the final pairing and said: "If you told me at the beginning of the week, I would have taken it."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2019, with the headline 'Shibuno - Smiling Cinderella or assassin?'. Print Edition | Subscribe