TWENTY-year-old Hinako Shibuno from Japan will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the AIG Women’s British Open after a brilliant back nine at Woburn, on Saturday.
In front of 14,000-strong crowds lining the Marquess’ course, Shibuno reached the turn in one over par.
But the Japanese rookie came alive on the way in with six birdies – including consecutive gains at 17 and 18 – setting up a sizzling 67.
That took her to 14-under for the tournament. It was seriously impressive stuff from the Japanese LPGA rookie playing her first tournament outside her native Japan – and her first Major.
South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai led for most of the day but bogeyed the par-four 16th to slip back, and a level par 72 left her on 12-under overall.
Korean Sung Hyun Park (68) is another shot back in third, with American duo Morgan Pressel (66) and Lizette Salas (70) tied fourth alongside Jin Young Ko (68) – winner of last week’s Evian Championship – who is going for back-to-back Majors.
Spaniard Carlota Ciganda was left to rue a double bogey at the 18th which dropped her to nine-under, the same mark as Woburn favourite Charley Hull and Yorkshire’s Bronte Law, who both shot 70.
Shibuno has never played outside Japan before and only left her country for the first time last year when she went to practise in Thailand.
She is known in the Japanese media as the “Smiling Cinderella.”
Shibuno said: “It’s definitely exceeding my expectations. I came here wanting to make the cut, so right now I feel like I’m doing something very incredible.
“It’s more like a Japanese golf course, so maybe that’s why it’s going so well.”
Buhai was philosophical about her round and admitted she often performs better when not leading from the front.
“I hit so many good shots on that front side,” said 30-year-old Buhai. “I only turned in two-under but I had so many chances.
“A few putts were just a bit short and unfortunately on the back side, I just got a little rattled.
“I kind of felt like I just lost a bit of composure in my rhythm a little bit but I hit some good shots on the last two holes.
“A lot of my wins have been come-from-behind. I always feel better chasing. I think I had a four-shot lead at one stage, but I didn’t let that bother me or get to me.
“I think during a four-round tournament, everybody is going to have a little wobble in their round somewhere.”