Defending AIG Women’s Open champion Hinako Shibuno is ready for the stern test of Royal Troon this week in her first ever trip to Scotland.
After winning in such style last year at Woburn, the 21-year-old from Japan is determined to defend her title on the links of Troon, where she knows she needs to find the fairways.
“If I can keep my shots straight, and don’t bend the ball into the rough, I don't really think that I'll be in much trouble,” Shibuno said through an interpreter. “But I especially think that I need to be careful of putting it into the fairway bunkers. That would put me in some trouble!"
Shibuno has never previously been to Scotland and has minimal experience with links golf. The Ladies Scottish Open last week was only her second event outside of Japan, but Shibuno has been preparing well for her defence.
“This is my first time in Scotland, and I do get that impression of the links course being very windy," she said. "You do get various weather all in one day! But I have been fully preparing myself to play well over here.
"I'm going to have to play smart. But, at the same time, as defending champion, I'm going to enjoy it, and also I want to show a new part of my game this year."
The Smiling Cinderella, a nickname affectionately given to the affable Japanese star, also took notes from The 145th Open Championship that was played around the famous South Ayrshire links, which Henrik Stenson eventually won.
“I watched The Open in 2016, the final day. From what I saw it looked very windy and it did also seem very narrow as well. But it’s not as firm now as I had expected when I was watching The Open," she added.
The rain on Monday has softened up the course considerably, but the test of Troon is still immense, with thick lush rough, numerable bunkers and a long course awaiting the players, not to mention the likelihood of strong gusting winds.
Shibuno, however, is ready for the challenge, and won’t give up her AIG Women’s Open crown without a fight.