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Hinako Shibuno takes lead into final round of Women's British Open

AP, Kyodo

Hinako Shibuno’s dream debut continued Saturday in the Women’s British Open when she shot a 5-under 67 to take a two-stroke lead into the final round.

The 20-year-old Shibuno, a rookie on the Japan LPGA Tour who is making her LPGA Tour and major championship debut, birdied six of the final holes in the round to get to 14-under 202.

“It’s definitely exceeding my expectations,” said Shibuno, nicknamed “Smiling Cinderella.” “I came in wanting to make the cut, so right now I feel like I’m doing something very incredible.”

Overnight leader Ashleigh Buhai started with a three-shot lead at Woburn Golf Club and stretched it to five when Shibuno bogeyed Nos. 5 and 9.

“I was pretty upset after the three-putt bogey on the ninth,” Shibuno said. “But after the second shot on the 10th hole, I was able to bring myself back.”

Buhai stumbled with three bogeys in five holes. The 30-year-old South African, who has never won on the LPGA Tour, had a 72 to drop to second at 12 under.

“I played my first nine holes probably the best ball-striking I could have had. Hit really good shots,” Buhai said. “Turned 2 under, birdied my 10th to go to 3-under and hit two poor wedge shots on 11 and 12, normally my strong point. Let the three-putt rattle me on No. 12.

“I’m still here, two shots behind going into the final round playing in the final group. If you told me at the beginning of the week, I would have taken it.”

Second-ranked Park Sung-hyun was another shot back after a bogey-free 68.

Top-ranked Ko Jin-young and Americans Morgan Pressel and Lizette Salas were tied for fourth on 10 under. Ko (68) is seeking her third major title of the year after winning the Evian Championship last week in France. Pressel had a 66, and Salas shot 70.

Shibuno is playing in her first tournamnet outside Japan.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to make it this far,” said Shibuno, who has a chance to become only the second Japanese golfer to win a major on the PGA or LPGA tours.

“I have to aim for the title in this position. I want to stay aggressive until the end and get a lot of birdies.”

Among other Japanese competitors, Sakura Yokomine vaulted up the leaderboard with a bogey-free 67 and is tied for 14th at 6-under. The 33-year-old sunk four close-range birdies before landing a 174-yard shot from the 18th fairway in front of the pin.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve played golf this good,” Yokomine said. “I’m really happy I didn’t hook any shots. The top-10 is in sight.”

Eighteen-year-old amateur Yuka Yasuda is at 3-under, followed by Minami Katsu and Ayako Uehara at 2-under. Momoko Ueda remains at even par.

Defending champion Georgia Hall was 10 shots back after a 74.