All Scores

Hinako Shibuno embraces swarming attention at Chevron Championship

Hinako Shibuno shot a six-under 66 Friday to take the outright lead at Dinah Shores. (Harry How/Getty Images)

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — Hinako Shibuno has gotten used to the outpouring of attention since she won the 2019 AIG Women’s Open for Japan’s first major victory since 1977 less than a year after turning professional. As she walked off the course at Dinah Shores on Friday as the clubhouse leader at nine-under par, it became clear that the media apparatus and fans now gravitate to the bright Japanese star wherever she goes.

“It’s very familiar,” Shibuno said through a translator Friday, “that I can see the Japanese media all the way from Japan.”

After carding a six-under 66 Friday to take the outright lead at the Chevron Championship, the 23-year-old first met with Japanese media, doing an on-camera interview with Mitsuki Katahira. The former No. 1 amateur player in the world and six-year broadcaster was there with WOWOW media, a Japanese television station.

Following her on-camera interview, Shibuno walked over to meet with American media and conducted a press conference with her manager serving as her translator.

After that, the star stepped outside the press conference area and held court with the Japanese print media, conducting a 10-minute Q&A next to the practice green and answering whatever questions the reporters posed to her in the sweltering desert heat.

Regardless of how well or where she plays, the major champion always chats with the Japanese media daily. On Wednesday, Shibuno held a recorded press conference in the shade near the practice chipping area, following the precedent set by Ai Miyazato, the former Japanese World No. 1 who retired from the LPGA in 2017.

Even at the LPGA’s qualifying school, Q-Series, WOWOW broadcast Shibuno’s performances live from Mobile, Ala. last November despite the 19-hour time difference in Japan. It’s a level of coverage not seen from the Japanese media since Miyazato’s retirement.

“Everybody loves her personality and they love to come film her,” Katahira said. “I think it’s kind of difficult for her. There’s so much attention on her in Japan, even off the golf course, too. I know she doesn’t say it, but I know it’s probably pretty stressful for her. I think she handles herself very well.”

While the Japanese golf world knows Japanese LPGA Tour winners Yuka Saso and Nasa Hataoka, Shibuno is a household name largely because of her upbeat personality. The media has nicknamed her the “Smiling Cinderella.”

“She’s always smiling,” Katahira said. “Even under pressure, she was smiling and high-fiving. That makes everybody become a fan instantly, I think.”

That carries over into her media interactions. Shibuno laughed after explaining to reporters that her favorite snacks are Chicken Breast chips that she makes in the microwave. She then waved with two hands at the conclusion, saying “arigato gozaimasu” (meaning “thank you”) to the American media.

The attention follows the star wherever she goes. A fan leaped and fist-pumped in excitement after Shibuno made an uphill eight-foot birdie putt on a par 5. Another fan yelled out “yokatta!” — Japanese for “It was good!”

On the 11th tee, Shibuno acknowledged a fan who told her “nice birdie,” with a smile and a “thank you.”

It’s difficult to see the depths of her fandom from across the Pacific Ocean. If Japan hosted the Chevron Championship, Katahira believes the fans would rival the crowds swarming Augusta National during The Masters, a major on the PGA Tour. As the fervor grows, it becomes more challenging for Shibuno to live up to the demands.

“From 2019, winning British Open,” Shibuno said, “it’s more expectations from fans, so it’s getting easier.”

The fans on-site at the Chevron Championship have been treated to another of Shibuno’s strong major performances this week. Her two best finishes on the LPGA Tour have come at major — the AIG Women’s Open, during her first trip outside of Japan in 2019, and a fourth-place finish at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Open, where she held the lead through 54 holes. Shibuno credits her matured game for the strides she’s made since winning her first major championship.

Now, as she heads into the third round with Jennifer Kupcho and two other golfers just one stroke behind her, she’s embracing the gravity of the moment without getting too ahead of herself.

“It’s very sad to play the final season,” Shibuno said Thursday, “but I wanted to just play well, finish well.”

Kent Paisley is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering golf and the LPGA. He also contributes to Golf Digest. Follow him on Twitter @KentPaisley.

The Late Sub Podcast: Can the USWNT Medal?

The USWNT takes a silly face photo during their team Olympic photo shoot
The USWNT will begin their 2024 Olympic medal hunt on Thursday. (Brad Smith/ISI/Getty Images).

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins discusses WNBA All-Star Weekend, which felt both like a celebration of the league's explosive growth over the past year and a way to set Team USA up for a particularly competitive Summer Olympics.

Later, Watkins previews the field for the upcoming Olympic soccer tournament, nominating her personal "Group of Death" and discussing whether or not the new-era USWNT could still reach medal contention despite their current rebuild under new head coach Emma Hayes.

Subscribe to The Late Sub to never miss an episode.

Team USA, Germany Play Pre-Olympic Exhibition Game in London

Team USA's 5x5 Basketball Team stands for the National Anthem before Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game
Team USA looks to rebound from Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game loss in an exhibition against Germany today. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

USA Basketball's 5x5 team will tip off in an exhibition against Germany in London this afternoon, getting in one last tune-up before the Summer Olympics begin.

The US is hunting an eighth-straight gold medal this year, with group stage play starting on July 29th.

Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to face Germany in pre-Olympic exhibition.
Team USA's Kahleah Copper, Alyssa Thomas, Kelsey Plum, and Sabrina Ionescu gear up to take on Germany in London. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

US to use All-Star loss as fuel

Coming off the weekend's All-Star Game loss, the Olympians are ready to repeat history: They earned their Tokyo gold medal immediately after losing the first Team USA vs. Team WNBA All-Star Game back in 2021.

Breanna Stewart, who led Team USA with a 31-point, 10-rebound double-double on Saturday, said that the defeat "is going to help us tremendously. We don’t get that many game opportunities, [and now] we can go back and watch the film and focus on how we can continue to be better."

Today’s tilt against Germany will see the US work to lock in their defense, particularly in the paint. They'll also lean into their positional versatility before heading to Paris.

WNBA pro Satou Sabally leads Team Germany in today's pre-Olympic exhibition game against Team USA.
WNBA pro Satou Sabally helped Germany to their first-ever Olympic berth. (Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Olympic debutants Germany enter first US clash

The exhibition marks the first-ever US-Germany linkup. The German team will make their Olympic debut in Paris after decades of failing to qualify for major international competitions. Their sixth-place 2023 EuroBasket finish sent them into February’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they punched their ticket to the 2024 Games.

Leading Germany's run was two-time WNBA All-Star Satou Sabally, who put up career-high averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals with Dallas last season. Her 20-point, 11-rebound double-double was the difference-maker in Germany's must-win 73-71 Olympic qualifying victory over Brazil.

Other German players to watch include 2022 NY Liberty draft-pick — and Sabally's sister — Nyara Sabally, along with Liberty sharpshooter Leonie Fiebich.

Where to watch the Team USA vs. Germany game

Today’s exhibition tips off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on FS1.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: USWNT Star Jaedyn Shaw Is Expecting “Dubs All Around”

retired uswnt star kelley o'hara interviewing san diego wave and uswnt forward jaedyn shaw
'1v1' is back with Jaedyn Shaw joining Kelley O'Hara for a conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, San Diego Wave and USWNT star Jaedyn Shaw joins two-time World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from the 19-year-old Wave FC phenom about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her experience with international competition at this point in her young career, and how she's preparing to take on the 2024 Summer Games.

Subscribe to Just Women's Sports on YouTube to never miss an episode.

The 91st: Complete USWNT & Olympic Soccer Preview Featuring Jess McDonald

Logo for JWS USWNT Olympic show The 91st
The latest season of JWS' awarding-winning Olympics show 'The 91st' premieres today. (Just Women's Sports)

We're back! Hosts Jordan Angeli, Duda Pavao, and retired USWNT forward Jess McDonald deliver a full preview of this year's Olympic soccer tournament in Paris.

Watch for full analysis of USWNT manager Emma Hayes's coaching style, this team's shifting identity in this new USWNT era, and a projected starting XI for the team's group stage opener against Zambia. The 91st hosts also break down all three Olympic groups — including top players and teams to track throughout the tournament — plus give their predictions for the medal rounds and individual awards.

Subscribe to Just Women's Sports on YouTube to never miss an episode.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.