It was a coronation on Saturday for Inbee Park, the seven-time major winner, who won the first Olympic gold medal in women’s golf in 116 years in a runaway at the Olympic Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro.
The South Korean won the 60-player golf tournament by five shots on 16-under 268, the same score at which Justin Rose won the men’s gold medal six days prior.
“This really could be the highlight of my career,” Park said. “I was lucky enough to have the opportunity. We have five major tournaments a year. I’ve won a lot of the major championships. The Olympic Games you get to do it only once ever four years and golf in 112 years. It’s a huge honor and I think it could be the highlight of my golfing career.”
Park skipped the last two LPGA majors, the U.S. Women’s Open and a title defense at the Women’s British Open, to nurse a season-long nagging left thumb injury back to good enough health to compete. The gamble paid off as she dismantled the Gil Hanse-designed course, including a final round of 5-under 66.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko finished in second place at 11 under par, earning the silver medal with a birdie on the par-5 finishing hole to separate herself from bronze medalist Shanshan Feng of China.
The Kiwi Ko committed to playing aggressively in the final three holes to surge onto the second position on the leaderboard.
“At the back of your mind, unless you make a careless mistake to know that you would be able to hold a medal no matter what, I thought, wow, I can’t believe I’m here in this position,” she said.
An American didn’t finish on the medal podium in the women’s competition, though Stacy Lewis came close. She finished in a tie for fourth place with Haru Nomura of Japan and Hee Young (Amy) Yang of South Korea. Lewis was 2 inches away on her birdie putt at the 18th hole from a birdie that would have put her in a bronze-medal playoff with Feng. Earlier in the week, Nomura nearly whiffed on a 6-inch putt for par that she missed, ultimately marking the difference between potentially landing on the medal stand and missing out.
American Gerina Piller was tied for second place heading into the final round, but the 31-year-old struggled on Saturday, shooting 3-over 74 to fall into a tie for 11th place.
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