It was a fairy-tale ending for 20-year-old rookie Hinako Shibuno of Japan, nicknamed “Smiling Cinderella,” who drained a 15-footer for birdie on her 72nd hole to win the AIG Women’s British Open, the LPGA’s fifth and final major championship of 2019.
Shibuno, a rookie on the JLPGA with two wins in Japan already under her belt, started the day with a two-shot lead and finished with a final-round 68 at the Marquess Course at Woburn Golf Club in Milton Keynes, England, for an 18-under 270 total to win by a shot over American Lizette Salas.
Despite carding a double bogey on the third hole and a bogey at the eighth, Shibuno had two birdies on the front before reeling off five birdies on the back nine, including the birdie at 18 for the win. She became the second Japanese player to win a women’s major championship, joining Hisako “Chako” Higuchi, who won the 1977 Women’s PGA Championship.
“What I have done is unbelievable,” Shibuno told said after her round. “I imagined the British Open was played on a links course. But when I arrived I was surprised to find it was trees, just like Japan.”
Salas, who finished tied for fifth at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June, got off to a hot start with birdies on three of her first four holes before dropping a shot with a bogey at the sixth. She got back on track immediately with four birdies over her next five holes, capped with one more at the 15th, but missed her short birdie attempt at 18 to leave her one shot back. Her final-round 65 was low round of the day and tied the low round of the tournament.
“I told myself, ‘You got this, you were made for this,’” Salas said, regarding her birdie attempt at 18. “I put a good stroke on it. I’m not gonna lie I was nervous. I haven’t been in that position in a long time. I gave it a good stroke ... and it just didn’t drop.”
“I’ll take away a lot of positives,” added Salas, whose only LPGA win came at the 2014 Kingsmill Championship.
Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko (70), going for her third major title of 2019, shot 66 to finish in third place at 16 under. The finish assured her the Rolex ANNIKA Major Award, given to the player with the season’s most outstanding major championship performance.
Morgan Pressel, who won the 2007 Kraft Nabisco Championship at age 18 but hasn’t won on the LPGA since 2008, shot 67 to finish fourth at 15 under. South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai, the leader after the first two rounds, shot 70 to finish fifth.