Hinako Shibuno, a player known as the Smiling Cinderella, enjoyed a fairytale start at the 2022 AIG Women’s British Open. The Japanese superstar birdied the first three holes en route to a 6-under 65 at historic Muirfield, where the best female professionals are competing for the first time.
Shibuno told the media after the round that her goal for the week was to be friends with the wind. The 2019 Women’s Open champion won her major at Woburn, a parkland course in England, in her first time competing outside of her native Japan. The next year Shibuno got her first taste of Scottish links golf in back-to-back weeks.
“Two years ago, when we were playing at the Royal Troon,” she said, “the wind completely took over my shots. I wasn’t thinking about how to use this to my advantage. However, this tournament I could adapt my style to the elements. I imagined my swing, if the wind was coming from the right, I could play by feeling how far from the pin I needed to aim for.”
Shibuno, 23, holds a one-shot lead over American Jessica Korda, who has borrowed clothes all week thanks to lost luggage. Korda, one of the best players on tour without a major title, finished a career-best runner-up to Jennifer Kupcho earlier this year at the Chevron Championship.
Even Shibuno said she was slightly “frightened” by how well she played in the opening round, given her recent form. She has three missed cuts and a withdrawal in her last four starts on the LPGA. Shibuno credited Thursday’s fine performance to her caddy, who suggested a slight adjustment in her balance on the greens.
Catriona Matthew, Louise Duncan and Sophia Schubert interact on the 18th green following their round during Day One of the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield on August 04, 2022 in Gullane, Scotland. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Louise Duncan, the 22-year-old Scot who finished 10th last year at Carnoustie and made her professional debut last week at the Trust Golf Scottish Open, carded a 67 to share third with Mexico’s Gaby Lopez.
“Sounds weird but I breathed quite well today,” said Duncan, who has learned new techniques from her caddy and coach Dean Robertson, a former DP World Tour winner.
“Just try to keep it relaxed. I get a bit uptight. Because I want to hold it so badly.”
Duncan teed off in the first group with fellow Scot Catriona Matthew, who hit the historic first tee shot at 6:30 am
Muirfield has played host to 16 men’s British Opens, and a young Matthew picked up trash and worked as a walking scorer at several of the championships near her North Berwick home growing up.
Unfortunately, double-bogeys on Nos. 1 and 10 kept the local legend from getting in the mix after an opening 76.
“It was out there I think for the taking this morning,” said Matthew. “Even though it was wet for our first few, the wind is certainly less than it’s been the last two days.”
The top three players in the world were grouped together and had mixed results: Jin Young Ko (76), Minjee Lee (68) and Nelly Korda (70).
Canada’s Brooke Henderson, winner of the recent Amundi Evian Championship, bogeyed the last hole to shoot 70. Earlier in the week she called Muirfield her favorite links course yet.
“I was so soaked after my warmup,” said Henderson, “but was really happy when the sun came out and definitely made a difference in the temperature, too. Very windy and the scores are showing that it’s tough.”
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek