Hinako Shibuno, a player known as the Laughing Cinderella, got off to 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 compete for the first time.
Shibuno told the media after the round that her goal for the week was to befriend the wind. The 2019 Women’s Open champion won her major at Woburn, a parkland course in England, when she first competed outside her native Japan. The following year, Shibuno got her first taste of Scottish left golf in consecutive weeks.
“Two years ago when we played at the Royal Troon,” she said, “the wind completely caught up with my shots. I didn’t think about how to use this to my advantage. However, this tournament allowed me to adapt my style to the elements I imagined my swing, if the wind came from the right I could play by feeling how far from the pin to aim.
Shibuno, 23, has a one-time lead over American Jessica Korda, who has been borrowing clothes all week thanks to lost luggage. Korda, one of the best players to tour without a major title, finished a career-best runner-up to Jennifer Kupcho at the Chevron Championship earlier this year.
Even Shibuno said she was a little “scared” by how well she played in the opening round, giving her recent shape. She has three missed cuts and one pullout in her last four starts on the LPGA. Shibuno credited Thursday’s good performance to her caddy, who suggested a slight adjustment to her balance on the greens.
Catriona Matthew, Louise Duncan and Sophia Schubert meet on the 18th green after their round during the first day of the AIG Women’s Open at Muirfield on August 4, 2022 in Gullane, Scotland. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Louise Duncan, the 22-year-old Scot who finished 10th at Carnoustie last year and made her professional debut at the Trust Golf Scottish Open last week, took a 67 and shared third place with Mexico’s Gaby Lopez.
“Sounds weird, but I was breathing pretty good today,” said Duncan, who learned new techniques from her caddy and coach Dean Robertson, a former DP World Tour winner.
“Just try to keep it calm. I’m getting a little tense. Because I want to hold it so badly.”
Duncan teed off in the first group with fellow Scotsman Catriona Matthew, who hit the historic first tee shot at 6:30 a.m.
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 championships near her home in North Berwick.
Unfortunately, double bogeys at numbers 1 and 10 prevented the local legend from getting into the mix after an opening 76.
“It was up for grabs this morning, I guess,” Matthew said. “Although it was wet for the first few days, the wind is definitely less than the last two days.”
The top three players in the world sat together and had mixed results: Jin Young Ko (76), Minjee Lee (68) and Nelly Korda (70).
Canadian Brooke Henderson, winner of the recent Amundi Evian Championship, bogeyed the last hole to shoot 70. Earlier this week, she named Muirfield her favorite links job to date.
“I was so soaked after my warm-up,” Henderson said, “but was very happy when the sun came out and definitely made a difference in the temperature. There’s a lot of wind and the scores show it’s tough.”
Story originally appeared on GolfWeek