Buhai builds confidence after British Open challenge

05 August 2019 - 09:59 By Craig Ray
Ashleigh Buhai during day 1 of the Canon Sunshine Ladies Tour Open at Irene Country Club on January 30, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Ashleigh Buhai during day 1 of the Canon Sunshine Ladies Tour Open at Irene Country Club on January 30, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Carl Fourie/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai couldn’t hold off a charging weekend pack at the Women’s British Open at Woburn despite taking a holding a three-shot lead at the halfway mark of the season’s final major.

Japan’s 20-year-old sensation Hinako Shibuno won with a birdie on the 72nd hole to claim a dramatic one-stroke victory over the USA’s Lizette Salas.

Shibuno’s final round 68 was enough to move her to 18-under‚ which included a third round 67.

Buhai‚ in a quest to become SA’s first women’s major winner since Sally Little in 1980‚ led at 12-under after the first two rounds. But a wobble on the back nine on Saturday left her two strokes behind Shibuno going into the final round.

After an even-par front nine on Sunday‚ Buhai made three birdies on the 10th‚ 12th and 13th to move within one shot of the lead.

But a bogey on the par-four 16th ended her challenge as Shibuno remained rock solid despite Salas making a charge two groups ahead.

“I'm very chuffed. I mean‚ if you had given me a top five at the beginning of the week‚ I most can certainly would have taken it‚” Buhai said.

“Obviously there's some disappointment‚ having had the lead over two days and being in the mix.

“But I steadied myself and I thought I played really well on that back nine (on Sunday). Unfortunately I hit it in the rough on 16 to make bogey. I left a few putts‚ but overall I'm obviously very happy.

“My takeaway from the week is that I was able to stay in the mix at a major.”

Shibuno‚ known as the ‘smiling Cinderella’‚ was the darling of the crowd with her fearless play and engaging demeanour that won her many fans at her first tournament outside Japan.

Buhai praised the latest major winner and was left impressed by the Shibuno’s fearless play.

“She just played amazingly‚ especially yesterday on the back nine‚ and today on the back nine‚” Buhai said.

“She took it on. I think when you're young‚ you're fearless‚ and she still plays that way‚ which is how you've got to play. She just gets up and rips it. She did really great.

“She drove it really well and she's an aggressive putter. I think that's why she made so many putts‚ as opposed where I was more dying the putts in. If she missed them‚ she wasn’t scared about the one coming back.”

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