‘Smiling Cinderella’ Shibuno leads by two at Woburn

Twenty-year-old Hinako Shibuno of 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 day three.

In front of 14,000-strong crowds lining the Marquess’ course, Shibuno reached the turn in one over par but came alive on the way in with six birdies – including consecutive gains at 17 and 18 – setting up a sizzling 67, taking her to -14 under for the tournament. It was seriously impressive stuff from the JLPGA rookie playing her first tournament outside her native Japan.

Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa led for most of the day but bogeyed the par four 16th to slip back, and a 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).

Spaniard Carlota Ciganda was left to rue a double birdie at the 18th which dropped her to nine under, the same mark as local favourite Charley Hull and her fellow Englishwoman 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'.

“It's definitely exceeding my expectations,” she said. “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 the 30-year-old. “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.”

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