13 Dec 2020 | Professional golf |

Shibuno on top as Aussies fade

by Martin Blake

Hinako Shibuno image
Japan's Hinako Shibuno during her third round in Texas today. Photo: Getty

The Australian challenge faltered at the Champions Club in Houston today but Japan’s Hinako Shibuno was unrelenting in her hunt for a second major championship triumph at the US Women’s Open.

Shibuno, the world No. 16 and last year’s surprise winner of the Women’s British Open in England, will take a one-shot lead into tomorrow’s final round.

She has not surprised anyone this time. She is world class, even if she has chosen not to join the LPGA Tour just yet, preferring to play at home where she has won four times.

None of the four Australians remaining in the field is in contention, with Hannah Green the best of them so far at five over par, tied-33rd, having picked up a few places with a 73 today. Although she was two over for the day it reflected the difficulty of the course, dampened by rain and playing long.

“It felt like I was more consistent than what the score showed, but it was pretty tough there,” said Green. “I was saying to my caddie, I don't think I've ever hit so many hybrids into par fours and par threes before. The first three holes I had hybrid, so, yeah, it was tough.

“Looking at my score I was quite surprised that I'm in the position that I am. Even shooting over par I've gained some strokes on the field.”

The Western Australian thought the conditions challenging to say the least, with mud balls and hidden pins. “Yeah, it's so tough,” said Green. “Last year we were battling the heat; this year we're battling the length of golf course and also chilly mornings and some rain, which I hope we can miss tomorrow.

“So especially just having two venues. That's been probably the toughest thing, getting to know two courses in such a short amount of time. But we are really fortunate that the course is set up really well. The USGA do a good job, always make it tough. So I'm excited for tomorrow see how it all pans out.”

Shibuno was strong again but a bogey from the left bunker at the par-four 18th hole trimmed her lead to a shot over Amy Olson of the United States who posted even-par 71 to Shibuno’s 74.

Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn and South Korea’s Ji Yeong Kim2 are at one under par, three shots from the lead and well in contention.

Of the other Aussies, amateur Gabriela Ruffels had a disappointing day with six bogeys in her 76 but still sits inside the top 40. “The course is tough,” Ruffels said. “I think it was definitely the toughest day. Conditions, it was super wet out there, a lot of mud balls and the pins were tucked, and it was hard to get close to the pins. This course is very tough and the USGA set it up super tough. It was a really good challenge.”

Minjee Lee (seven over) and Su Oh (10 over) are well back in the field.


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