Shibuno Leads 75th U.S. Women’s Open by 3

Hinako Shibuno of Japan already has captured one major title and is in position to win another, but she has a hard time believing it.

The 22-year-old Shibuno shot 4-under-par 67 on the Jackrabbit Course to grab a three-stroke lead over amateur Linn Grant of Sweden midway through the 75th U.S. Women’s Open at Champions Golf Club in Houston.

“I turned from a normal person to a celebrity overnight,” Shibuno, who won the 2019 AIG Women’s British Open at Woburn Golf Club in England, said through an interpreter. “I feel like I’m not really confident. It feels like this is not really myself.

“ … I realized that (the best players) were on totally different levels with me. That made me want to go to the U.S. and compete in more high-level tournaments.”

Shibuno, who has won four times in Japan and is playing in the U.S. Women’s Open for the first time, overcame two bogeys by making four of her six birdies on the back nine of round two at Champions.

Grant, 21, who won both the Ladies British Amateur Stroke Play Championship and the Scottish Women’s Open in 2017, posted her second straight 69 on the Jackrabbit Course.

“I just tried to hit the fairways and stay on the inside of the pin (on approach shot),” said Linn, who also has won twice against the pros on the Nordic Golf Tour while keeping her amateur standing. “It sounds simple, but that’s my game plan and I’m just trying to stock with it.

“The first time in the U.S. Open (in which she tied for 57th in 2018), I was a little scared. This time I’m more prepared and had a better starting time. This is amazing and I’m proud of myself.”

First-round leader Amy Olson made a double-bogey 6 on the 15th hole in a 72 on the Jackrabbit Course and is four shots back in a tie for third with amateur Kaitlin Papp, who birdied three of the last five holes for a 68 on the Cypress Creek Course, and Megan Kang, who had a bogey-free 69 on the Cypress Creek Course.

Two-time major champion Stacy Lewis, a member at Champions, had five birdies on a 68 on the Champions Course and is five down in a tie for sixth that includes 2007 U.S. Women’s Open champion Cristie Kerr, who recorded a bogey-free 69 on the Cypress Creek Course.

Also in the tie for sixth are 2018 U.S. Women’s Open champ Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand (70, Cypress Creek Course), Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa (69, Jackrabbit Course), Sarah Schmelzel (69, Jackrabbit Course), Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand (72, Cypress Creek Course) and Yuka Saso of Japan (71, Jackrabbit Course).

Second-ranked Sei Young Kim of South Korea shot 69 on the Cypress Creek Course and is tied for 14th, defending champion Jeongeun Lee6 of South Korea is tied for 20th after a 69 on the Jackrabbit Course, while top-ranked Jin Young Ko of South Korea totaled 70 on the Jackrabbit Course and is in a tie for 29th that includes fourth-ranked Danielle Kang of Westlake Village and Pepperdine, who had a 71 on the Jackrabbit Creek Course.

Seventh-ranked Nasa Hataoka of Japan is tied for 36th after a 73 on the Cypress Creek Course, while sixth-ranked Brooke Henderson of Canada totaled 73 on the Cypress Creek Course and made the cut on the number in a tie for 47th that includes eighth-ranked Minjee Lee of Australia, who had a 71 on the Cypress Creek Course,

Third-ranked Nelly Korda posted a second straight 73 on the Cypress Creek Course and missed the cut by one stroke, and 10th-ranked Sung Hyun Park of South Korea stumbled to a 78 on the Cypress Creek Course and missed the weekend by three shots.

Each player in the field played both courses the first two days, but the final two rounds will be played strictly on the Cypress Creek Course.

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