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Muirfield 2022

Shibuno surprises herself


'It has been a long time since I’ve played this well'

A smiling Hinako Shibuno following her first round at Muirfield

Hinako Shibuno exceeded her own expectations with a sensational 65 in the first round of the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield.

On a breezy day when scoring was anticipated to be tricky, the Champion of 2019 stormed to the top of the leaderboard with the aid of eight birdies.

“It has been a long time since I’ve played this well, especially putting,” said Shibuno.

“Honestly, it was a little frightening!”

Shibuno’s previous AIG Women’s Open victory was achieved at Woburn, but she has found life tougher on links courses, missing the cut at Royal Troon and then tying for 34th at Carnoustie last year.

However, the Japanese feels she is now a far more complete player than she was in 2020.

“Two years ago when we were playing at Royal Troon, the wind completely took over my shots. I wasn’t thinking about how to use this to my advantage,” she explained.

“However, this Championship I could adapt my style to the elements. I imagined my swing, if the wind was coming from the right I could play by feel how far from the pin I needed to aim.

“I’m always happy to be here. It was nostalgic to be on top (of the leaderboard).”

Shibuno’s six-under total was almost matched by Jessica Korda, who put together a superb 67 - highlighted by an eagle at the 17th - to claim second place.

Jessica Korda lines up a putt

Asked if she was surprised by the low scoring in evidence on Thursday, Korda said: “I am not even looking at the leaderboard.

There's so much going on with the crosswinds, trying to figure out where you want to land the ball.

“It's nice. At the end I looked at the leaderboard, but to be honest I was zoned in to what was going on. You have to stay on it here at all times.

“It's links golf. I swear, every time we come to Scotland, it's just like the same stuff. You've just got to be really prepared and take it for what it is. It’s really fun and really stressful.”

Korda’s performance provided some cheer after her suitcase got lost on her flight over to Scotland.

“I know where it is. I have an air tag on it. I just can't get anyone to actually go get it,” she added.

“On Monday I wore Megan Khang's pants. Tuesday, I wore my sister's pants and Wednesday I wore Alison Lee's pants. And today I'm wearing FootJoy pants!”

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