Hinako Shibuno takes lead in final major at Mission Hills

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Hinako Shibuno smiles as she walks from the fairway to the 18th hole during the second round of the LPGA Chevron Championship golf tournament Friday, April 1, 2022, in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Hinako Shibuno’s first impression of Mission Hills Country Club was far from confidence-inspiring — and, in hindsight, mistaken.

“It was a hard course for me. I couldn’t even imagine I could play here,” the 23-year-old from Japan said through a translator Friday, recalling the initial time she played the event now known as The Chevron Championship.

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She shot a 6-under 66 in the second round for a 9-under 135 total. A year and a half after tying for 51st in her debut, she took a one-stroke lead into the weekend on the mountain-framed course hosting the major championship for the last time.

The tournament that started in 1972 and became a major in 1983 is shifting to Houston next year after failing to attract a sponsor willing to keep it at Mission Hills.

Shibuno opened with a tap-in birdie on the par-4 first and had another on the par-4 10th.

“That makes it easier to play golf,” she said.

The 2019 Women’s British Open champion chipped in on the par-4 13th for the last of her seven birdies, against a lone bogey in warm and sunny morning conditions. She's sticking with the routine that has worked so far.

“I’m going to do just same thing,” Shibuno said. “I’m going to eat and I’m going to sleep.”

Defending champion Patty Tavatanakit (69), Annie Park (67) and Jennifer Kupcho (70) were a stroke back. Sei Young Kim (67) and Hyo Joo Kim (67) followed at 7 under.

“I feel like I left a lot out there,” Tavatanakit said. “But at the same time, that’s just golf. There is no way you’re going to have a perfect day with no mistakes. ”

She closed with birdies on the par-3 17th and par-5 18th.

“I think 17 was definitely a bonus with that pin position,” Tavatanakit said. “I think it kind of got my momentum going, knowing 18 was an up tee, so I knew I had a chance to get another birdie.”

Park played by herself the first two rounds with the players grouped in twosomes and an odd number in the field.

“Playing by myself was kind of weird yesterday, but today I kind of got used to it,” Park said. “I think when I made the turn and started waiting on players in the group in front of me, kind of just started to feel like normal golf.”

Kupcho, tied for the first-round lead with Minjee Lee at 66, birdied two of the last three holes after parring the first 15.

“I wouldn’t say I stayed very patient," Kupcho said. “I definitely got a little angry.”

Nanna Koerstz Madsen (67) and Ally Ewing (68) were 6 under.

Koerstz Madsen has a playoff victory and loss in her last two starts, beating Xiyu Lin three weeks ago in Thailand to become the first Danish winner in LPGA Tour history and losing to Atthaya Thitikul on Sunday in Carlsbad.

“I was very disappointed after Sunday,” Koerstz Madsen said. “But we drove here and we tried to take it as a positive that I was still in the playoff and I was still playing very good golf. But, obviously, it was disappointing.”

Lee had a 75 to drop to 5 under. Lexi Thompson, the 2014 champion, also was 5 under after a 70.

Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, the 2019 winner, followed an opening 74 with a 68 to get to 3 under. She played alongside Thompson.

Season points leader Danielle Kang birdied five of the first 12, then dropped four strokes on the final five with bogeys on 14 and 17 and a double bogey on 18. She was even par after a 71.


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