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Hinako Shibuno takes lead in final major at Mission Hills

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA (AP) – 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 on Friday, recalling the initial time she played the event now known as The Chevron Championship.

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.

Hinako Shibuno at the LPGA Chevron Championship golf tournament. PHOTO: AP

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.”