L-R Mone Inami, Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko – photo IGF / PGA Tour Stan Badz.
On a day when there had been some doubt as to whether play would even be completed because of pending storms, American and world number one, Nelly Korda, has held off several strong late challenges to win the Olympic Gold medal by one shot over Japan’s Mone Inami and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko.
Korda led the event from the completion of her second round of 62 and thus was a deserved winner and further assisted the, at times, controversial inclusion of golf in the Olympics given she is the current world number one.
India’s Aditi Ashok finished a very impressive 4th which, given her standing in world golf, was a case of boxing well above her weight and in the end she was unlucky to have missed a podium finish.
Korda began the day at the Kasumigaseki Country Club north of Tokyo with a three-shot lead but by the time the final group reached the 8th tee Korda, Ko and Ashok were tied at 14 under after Korda double bogeyed the 7th.
Korda quickly regained the ascendancy with birdies at the 8th and 9th and by the turn she was one ahead of Ko and two ahead of Ashok and Emily Kristine Pedersen.
It would, though, be the Japanese player, Inami who emerged as perhaps the biggest threat to Korda’s gold medal when she reeled off five birdies in six holes in her closing nine to draw level with Korda at the 17th but needing a par at the last to put the upmost pressure on the leader, she plugged in the front bunker and took bogey.
Play had halted play for 30 minutes or so when the forecast storms hit the golf course but fortunately for the event, the weather cleared and all 72 holes plus the playoff were completed.
Korda was able to safely find the green at the last and two putt for par, a task that became significantly easier when Ko hit a poor approach after a good drive and could only make par.
“Yeah, honestly amazing, it feels amazing,” said the champion. “After today Lydia was playing really well, so was Mone, they both played super well, so we were all bunched up there. It was very stressful, but I kept it together, I fought pretty hard.
“I’ve had a pretty good stretch of events, but it doesn’t mean necessarily that you’re going to play well, so you kind of try to put the expectations to the side and just go out and have a nice fresh week, enjoy the Olympic experience because it’s such a unique and fun experience now doing it for the first time.
“You play for more than just yourself, you also play for your country. So safe to say I really enjoyed my first Olympic experience.”
Korda was reluctant and very cautious not to compare wins she has had in the past with a golf medal victory.
“I think every win is special in its own way, I wouldn’t say one win is more special or one win is bigger. Each win has a significant meaning to me, something that I’ve gone through or whatnot.
“But I wouldn’t say — I mean obviously it’s amazing to be a gold medalist, to even just be an Olympian is and to represent your country, I mean you have to be the top of the top to come to the games. So but I wouldn’t say one win is more special than the other because they all are special.”
Korda and her medal – photo Stan Badz IGF / PGA Tour
In a playoff for second and third, Ko found the fairway bunker from the tee and could only make bogey while Inami safely found the green and two putted for the silver medal with the bronze going to Ko.
“I felt like I played really solid today,” said Ko. “There were a bunch of us at tied third and with this beautiful weather I think you’ve got to expect that everyone’s going to play well so I think I tried to play my best out there, have fun.
“Before I teed off today Sean (Foley) my coach said something along the lines of, what’s meant to be is going to be. So I think that’s what I tried to think today. The Olympics is a very special occasion where obviously, yes, we play for our country on a daily basis, but we’re really playing for them, this means so much then just for us.
“So yeah it’s a huge honor to be able to bring two medals for New Zealand and to be a two-time medalist in the last couple games. It’s a very, it’s safe to say I’ve really enjoyed my two times at the Olympics.”
Hannah Green began the final round tied on the same score as Ko but and outward nine of 38 all but destroyed her hopes of medal contention. To her credit, however, the West Australian played her opening seven holes of her inward nine in 6 under to get within one shot of a possible bronze medal but a bogey at the last would see her finish a very respectable 5th.
“I mean obviously at the start of the day I was trying to win a gold medal and my first couple hours on the golf course things weren’t going well and I was scrambling really hard,” said Green.
“So I think to be even in contention come the last couple holes really proud of myself for how I hung in there and didn’t get too down on myself and tried to think of the bigger picture I guess and being so lucky that we even have an Olympics to compete in.”
The weather halted play for 30 minutes or so late in the round. – photo IGF PGA Tour