Hinako Shibuno (24) is overcoming her biggest flaw. One minute she was hitting great shots, and the next hole was rough. Her up-and-down play has been derided as “roller-coaster golf,” but in her second year on the U.S. Tour, she has begun to show more consistency. In his second year on the U.S. Tour, however, he has become more consistent. As evidence of this, last season he failed to qualify nine times in 23 tournaments, but this season he has played seven tournaments and has yet to fail to qualify.
What has changed Shibuko? It is nothing other than the “swing modification” that she has been working on. In January of this year, he re-teamed with his coach Sho Aoki, who won the British Open in 2019, and this off-season they have been working on improving his driver shot.
Take a look at the two photos below. Until last season, she had a flat swing, in which he laid the club down, but this season he has modified it to an upright swing, in which he stands the club up. Legend Yuko Moriguchi, who boasts a total of 41 wins on tour, explains the effect of this change.
“Last season, when I adopted a flat swing, my distance was greatly improved from my days in Japan. At the same time, however, mistakes that caused the ball to drift to the left also became noticeable. This modification is intended to improve that issue while keeping the flying distance the same. I think this swing suits Mr. Shibuno very well. The linkage between the upper and lower body is natural, and the stability has been refined.”
The effect was tremendous. Compared to two years ago when he was primarily playing in Japan, his average distance has increased from 245 to 255 yards, and his fairway keeping percentage has improved from 71% to 75%.
Furthermore, Sibko is using the latest equipment to refine his new swing. For practice, he has introduced a ballistic measuring device used by Tiger Woods and others.
Shibuno’s focus is on getting distance with the carry. To achieve this, he focuses on the amount of spin and ball speed. The amount of spin has been increased by about 400 rpm and the speed by about 1 km per hour compared to the previous average. This has improved the average distance with a carry by 6 yards. Coach Aoki is pleased with the results, saying, ‘By mixing the swing with his past swing, he is getting closer to his ideal swing.
The results of the swing modification were evident at the Honda LPGA Thailand in February, where Sibko made two eagles and five birdies on the long holes over the four-day event. After the match, Shibuko said, “I feel like I am making something new. I feel like I’m making something new. I’m the new Shibuno.”
Explosive power shown in the championship match
Although the new swing is still a work in progress, Moriguchi predicts, “He should be ready for the U.S. Open in July and the All-England in August. In addition, a strong support system has emerged for Shibuko.
He is fluent in Japanese as well as English,” said Moriguchi. He is fluent in Japanese as well as English, and was once the caddie for Sakura Yokomine (37) for seven years, helping her win the queen’s prize money. Until now, Shibuno’s caddies have been Japanese, so there was a difference in the information he could get compared to local caddies who are fluent in English. In such a situation, the addition of a skilled caddie will be a big plus.
This season, he dyed his hair blonde. This is a sign of his determination. And Sivko’s original flavor has also come back.
The LPGA Drive On Championship, where she competed for the championship, she shot a 74 on the first day but improved by 18 strokes over the next three days to finish in the top 10 with a total of 16 under par. I have the impression that Shibuno’s typical explosiveness, which was not seen much in the second half of last year, has returned.
Last season, Shibuno failed to qualify in six of his last seven matches, but he managed to finish in third place at the British Open. Even if he had been in poor form up to that point, he peaked at the right moment on the big stage and suddenly produced results. This is Sibko’s greatest appeal. If his explosive power is combined with his new swing, which is being perfected, a second overseas major championship is not a pipe dream. The day when the “Shibuko Smile” will once again captivate the world is approaching.
From the May 26, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO.： Getty Images, Afro, Kyodo News