‘Smiling Cinderella’ Hinako Shibuno wins Women’s British Open on major debut

Japan’s Hinako Shibuno birdied the final hole to win the AIG Women’s British Open in thrilling fashion on her major championship debut at Woburn.

Shibuno overcame a four-putt double-bogey on the third hole to card a closing 68 and finish 18 under par, a shot ahead of American Lizette Salas, who lipped out from four feet for a birdie on the last.

Shibuno had never played a professional event outside Japan before this week, but the 20-year-old ended it as a major champion after holding off the challenge of Salas and world number one Ko Jin-young, who was seeking a third major title of the year but had to settle for third place following a 66.

Shibuno, who is known as the ‘Smiling Cinderella’ in Japan, told Sky Sports Golf through an interpreter: “I’m nervous now that I’ve won and I still feel like I’m going to vomit!

Hinako Shibuno revealed she had suffered from a strong bout of nerves before winning
Hinako Shibuno revealed she had suffered from a strong bout of nerves before winning

“I was more nervous on the front nine but on the back nine I was OK and I was able to make a lot of birdies as well.”

Asked about her winning putt on the 18th, Shibuno added: “I hit the putt a little too strong. I felt like I was going to cry but the tears didn’t come out.

“Obviously contending at a tournament like this is nerve-wracking, but I also felt that I was going to enjoy this moment as well. There were many Japanese spectators out there, and I heard many Japanese words too, so I felt like I was playing in Japan. Thank you.”

Shibuno took a two-shot lead over South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai into the final round but saw it disappear in demoralising style as she four-putted the third from long range and Salas surged to the top of the leaderboard with three birdies in the first four holes.

After dropping her only shot of the day on the sixth to fall into a five-way tie for the lead, Salas responded with four birdies in the next five holes and twice briefly enjoyed a two-shot lead, but could not shake off playing partner Ko.

Ko carded a hat-trick of birdies from the fifth and also picked up shots on the 10th, 12th and 13th as the final round threatened to turn into a two-horse race, but Shibuno had other ideas and steadied the ship with birdies on the fifth and seventh.

A three-putt bogey on the eight left Shibuno two shots behind but the Japan Tour rookie had played the back nine in 13 under par in the first three rounds and picked up shots on the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th to join Salas in the lead on 17 under.

Salas looked set to complete a brilliant 64 following a superb approach to the last only to nervously miss her birdie putt from close range and Shibuno made no such mistake to seal a remarkable victory.

Hinako Shibuno wins the AIG Women's British Open 2019!! #AIGWBOpic.twitter.com/pwdLWdPoqV

— AIG Women’s British Open (@AIGWBO) August 4, 2019

The home challenge had quickly petered out with Charley Hull and Bronte Law, who started the day five off the pace, carding closing rounds of 76 and 78 respectively.

Law had not made a single bogey in the first three rounds but recorded three in the first five holes and seven overall, while Hull’s chances of victory on her home course effectively ended with a double bogey on the par-five seventh.

Defending champion Georgia Hall finished alongside Law on three under after holing a long birdie putt on the 18th in a closing 73.