Minnesota Golf Association

Shibuno Leads by 3, But Women's Open Looks like a Free for All

December 11, 2020


HOUSTON, Texas -- After Hinako Shibuno won the 2019 British Women's Open, she could have gotten full status on the LPGA Tour. She declined. The then 20-year-old from Okayama, Japan, didn't think she was quite ready, and decided to stay in Japan for another year of competition there. Her plan was to play in the LPGA Q-School in the fall of 2020 and join the LPGA Tour in 2021. 

Then along came Covid 19. Because of that, there was no LPGA Q-School in 2020. 

Nevertheless, Shibuno could still make it onto the U.S. women's tour next year. All she has to do is win the U.S. Women's Open this weekend. 

That sounds like a tall order, but Shibuno is in a position to do it, after putting together the best round of the day Friday at the Champions Golf Club's Jack Rabbit course, one of two courses being used this week for the 75th Women's Open. (Cypress Creek is the other course being used, and that's where both rounds will be played over the weekend.) Shibuno's 4-under-par 67 gave her a 36-hole total of 135. With that, she established a three-stroke lead over an amateur, Arizona State sophomore Lynn Grant. Grant shot 69 at Cypress on Thursday and matched that score Friday at Jack Rabbit, which is how she arrived at 138.

Amy Olson, the first-round leader, started well enough on Friday. She birdied the par-5 first hole at Jackrabbit, but then bogeyed the next two holes. It was that kind of day for the 28-year-old former two-time Minnesota PGA Junior champion (2008 & '09) from Oxbow, N.D. She birdied the par-3 fourth, but she bogeyed the par-5 ninth and made the turn at 1 over (37). A birdie at the 348-yard, par-4 13th hole got her back to even par for the day -- and 4 under for the tournament -- but she made a double bogey at the 343-yard, par-4 15th.

At that point, she had fallen back into a tie for eighth. But a valedictory birdie at the 18th hole, combined with some mistakes by other contenders, elevated her into a tie for third, at 139, along with Megan Khang and another amateur, Texas senior Kaitlin Papp (a three-time All-American), who had the second-best score of the day, a 68.

One stroke behind the threesome at 139, there are eight players tied for sixth at 140. Included in that group are both Jutanugarn sisters, two-time major champion Ariya (2016 British Women's Open and 2018 U.S. Women's Open) and Moriya, and another two-time major champ, Stacy Lewis (who is a member at Champions Golf Club), plus another star from the Japanese Tour, 19-year-old Yuka Saso, and 2007 U.S. Open winner Cristie Kerr.

Kerr, at 43, is the oldest player in the tournament, and she wasn't at all sure that she'd be able to play after she was involved in a golf cart accident last week and suffered some serious injuries to her knee, hand, arm and ribs. (That brings us to the question of when driverless golf carts will be available. There are driverless cars operating on a limited basis in at least two places, the suburbs of Phoenix and the city of San Francisco, but exactly when computer-operated driving systems will be available in golf carts is another question altogether.)

Shibuno, like Olson, birdied the first hole at Jack Rabbit. She took the lead in the tournament, at 5 under, with a birdie at the sixth hole, but she bogeyed the 400-yard, par-4 eighth. It was on the back nine that she separated herself from the field, with birdies at the par-5 10th hole, the12th and the 15th. She bogeyed the 161-yard, par-3 16th, but bounced back with a birdie at the 387-yard, par-4 17th.

As impressive as she's been so far, Shibuno's three-shot lead doesn't mean much, especially when you look at the how compressed the field is going into the final 36 holes. There are eight players tied for sixth, six tied for 14th, nine tied for 20th, seven tied for 29th, 11 tied for 36th, and there are another 20 players tied for 47th at 3 over par, which was what it tookl to make the cut. In other words, there are 65 players within seven strokes of second place. If Shibuno falters, any player who made the cut could be a threat.

This is reminiscent of the 1983 U.S. Men's Open, at Oakmont. It was won by Larry Nelson, who shot 75-73--148 in the first two rounds and barely made the cut. He then  proceeded to shoot 65 and 67 in the final two rounds -- there was a rain delay on Sunday; so the tournament ended on a Monday morning -- and that was good enough for a one-stroke victory over Tom Watson.  

The guess here is that anyone who made the cut Friday at Champions could emerge as the winner on Sunday. 

By the way, if you want to watch the Women's Open this weekend, and you have DirecTV, good luck. There seems to be a dispute between the satellite service provider and a company called Tegna, which owns KARE ( Channel 11), which is the NBC affiliate, and NBC will be doing the Women's Open on Saturday and Sunday. Because of the dispute, Channel 11 hasn't been on the air for the last week -- at least, not for DirecTV customers. This may help to explain why AT&T, which bought DirecTV for $67 billion in 2015, is getting ready to sell it now for $15 billion, according to CNBC.         


75th U.S. Women's Open

At Champions Golf Club

Cypress Creek (par 71)

Jackrabbit (par 71)

Houston, Texas

Second-round results


1. Hinako Shibuno               68-67--135

2. Linn Grant (a)                  69-69--138

T3. Amy Olson                   67-72--139

T3. Megan Khang                70-69--139

T3. Kaitlyn Papp (a)             71-68--139   

T6. Moriya Jutanugarn         68-72--140

T6. Yuka Saso                      69-71--140

T6. Ariya Jutanugarn            70-70--140

T6. Lindsey Weaver              70-70--140

T6. Ashleigh Buhai                71-69--140

T6. Cristie Kerr                     71-69--140

T6. Sarah Schmelzel             71-69--140

T6. Stacy Lewis                    72-68--140

Missed the cut -- 145 (3 over)

T149. Kim Kaufman             78-79--157

 


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