Shibuno passes big test and hangs on to lead in Women's Open

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Hinako Shibuno, of Japan, fist bumbs fellow players after her round of golf during the third round of the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament, Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

HOUSTON – No spectators. Two golf courses in play for the opening rounds. A major championship two weeks before Christmas. Nothing about this U.S. Women's Open felt normal until Saturday.

That's when it became a grind that for so many years has defined this biggest event in women's golf. The long, soft and mud-splattered Champions Golf Club put a premium on par.

Hinako Shibuno did her best to hang on.

The 22-year-old from Japan watched a four-shot lead shrink to a single shot when her par putt on the final hole slid by the cup for a 3-over 74. She still had the lead on a day so tough only two of 66 players broke par.

“All the holes seemed to be very difficult for me,” she said.

It was like that for just about everybody.

Amy Olson, who nearly holed out from the 17th fairway and finished strong for a 71 that felt much lower, lost track of how often she had mud on her golf ball.

Stacy Lewis saw her chances of winning on her home course slip away with consecutive three-putts, the second one for a triple bogey on the 14th hole.