Ankara – Japan’s Hinako Shibuno took the lead at the Women’s British Open with an opening six under par 65 at Muirfield on Thursday as US star Jessica Korda stayed in touch despite having to play in borrowed clothes.
Three years ago, Shibuno won the major at the parkland Woburn course — she actually arrived presuming it would be a links course — but she admitted it was a completely different test over Scotland’s famous Open venue.
The 23-year-old made the perfect start with birdies at the first three holes and she went on to make eight altogether to offset two bogeys.
She led by one from Korda and by two from Mexico’s Gaby Lopez and local favourite, Louise Duncan, who finished in the top ten as an amateur at Carnoustie a year ago.
“I haven’t played well for a long time,” said Shibuno, although she did finish fourth in the first major of the year at the Chevron Championship in California.
“I missed the cut at the Scottish Open last week, but I really enjoyed today. It was very windy, but good fun. It’s nice to play well at such a famous venue.”
Korda has not had much fun off the course in Scotland.
The American’s suitcase is still missing on a flight from Zurich to Edinburgh and she has had to borrow clothes from other players, including younger sister, Nelly.
On the course she admitted it “was real fun, but really stressful. It’s always like this when we come to Scotland.
“I was not looking at any scoreboards because you have to concentrate so much on the golf course with all the tricky cross winds.
“It was nice at the end to look up at the leaderboard. But you have to stay zoned in at all times.”
– Missing hand warmers –
She added: “It has been frustrating being without my case. In addition to my gear, I’m missing the heat warmer for my lower back and also my hand warmers.”
Korda, who finished four ahead of sister Nelly, highlighted the round with a 25 foot putt for eagle at the long 17th.
Duncan, who just turned professional last month, also made three at the hole from inside five feet.
The 22-year-old made her debut in the paid ranks at the Scottish Open last week, but comfortably missed the cut. A round of four birdies and an eagle was the perfect response.
She played in the opening group with fellow-Scot Catriona Matthew, the 2009 champion, as one of her partners.
The two-time winning Solheim Cup captain offered the youngster some welcome advice.
“She told me to enjoy my career, work hard and see where the game takes me,” said Duncan.
“It was great to play with Catriona. She is such an inspiring figure in the game.
“We had a 6.30am tee time and so my alarm went off at 4.30am. I wouldn’t have been happy if I hadn’t made such an early rise worthwhile.”
Ko Jin-young, the world number one has failed to hit top form this season, and the Korean continued to struggle in her quest for a third major title.
After a 76, she will need to improve to make the cut.
Anna Nordqvist, the defending champion, will also face a tough Friday to make the weekend. She opened with a 74.