Hinako Shibuno is competing for the Major Women’s PGA Championship 2021 and looking for tickets to the Olympics, but has a caddy problem with Covid-19 and has seven extra strokes on the par3 hole.

Shibuno was born in 1998, won the major Women’s Open hosted by Royal & Ancient (R&A) in 2019. This week, she looks for her second equal title on par72 in the Atlanta, Georgia sports club. This is also the last chance for Japanese golfers to find a place to attend the Tokyo Olympics scheduled to open on July 23.

With a score of +4 after 36 holes, Shibuno got a ticket to the weekend – on the one-stroke cut. But private caddy Keisuke Fujino was positive for nCoV during the screening for the trip back to Japan after the tournament, just before the penultimate stage, on June 26.

According to the principles of disease prevention at the tournament, Shibuno is still allowed to continue, but under the guidance of the medical department and must be tested further. “I have no typical symptoms and will strive until the end of the tournament, even with this difficult situation,” Shibuno expressed determination before the personnel incident.

Shibuno did not perform well in the third round of the Women's PGA Championship on June 26.  Photo: USA Today

Shibuno did not perform well in the third round of the Women’s PGA Championship on June 26. Image: USA Today

Without his trusted combat assistant, Shibuno entered the third match with temporary caddy Yusuf Wazeeruddin. This round, the player nicknamed “Smiling Cinderella” is still in good form with five birdies, two bogey over 16 holes. But at the par3 17 hole, she met a professional disaster.

This hole, Shibuno plays into the lake, then goes to the specified release area to drop a new ball for the next shot. The new position was 114 yards from the hole, but she could not get on the green due to three consecutive water hazards.

On the fifth shot, Shibuno entered the hole and finished after a putt, at the septuple bogey. From start to finish, she lost a total of 10 strokes for the par3 hole, including four penalty strokes for “bathing the ball”. In the second round, she also once lost a water hazard on hole 17 but kept par by bringing the ball into the goal from the relief zone.

After yesterday’s tunnel collapse, Shibuno closed the match with 76 strokes, and at the same time stood at T68 at +6, the penultimate of the overall scoreboard after 54 holes.

At the beginning of the season, Shibuno ranked 13th in the world professional women’s golf rankings (Rolex Rankings). But when entering the Women’s PGA Championship, Shibuno ranked 31st in the Rolex Rankings, behind three compatriots including Ayaka Furue (28th), Mone Iname (25th) and Nasa Hataoka (11).

In the group of candidates to represent the host, only Shibuno and Hataoka compete in the major this week. Because the position of Rolex Rankings determines the Olympic slot and the host women’s team is represented by two representatives, Shibuno will open the door to Furue and Iname if they achieve high results in the prestigious arena that will close the curtain tomorrow morning, June 28, Vietnam time.

Quoc Huy

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