Olympic Golf: Inbee Park wins gold medal by five shots
Inbee Park has struggled all season with injuries and has only played a handful of events on the LPGA Tour. That didn’t stop her from regaining her old magic this week at the Rio Olympics. After three rounds, Park was out in front by two shots over Gerina Piller and Lydia Ko. What looked to be a three-way battle for the gold on Saturday became a runaway win for Park.
Park started the final round with two pars before running off three consecutive birdies. After playing the next seven holes at even par, Park played the next five holes in two under par. Approaching the 18th hole, she had a very comfortable lead and after a short par putt, Inbee Park became an Olympic champion, adding to her Hall of Fame career.
Number one player in the world Lydia Ko failed to make a move through much of the round with two bogeys and a birdie through 13 holes. She made a charge over the last five with three birdies, including a 10-footer on the last, securing a silver medal. Ko became the youngest New Zealander to win an Olympic medal at the age of 19.
Shanshan Feng started with a bogey on the first and was solid much of the round thereafter, with four birdies and a bogey. Her final round of 69 was good enough to earn the bronze medal.
Harukyo Nomura came within one of medal contention shooting a 65, which included a stellar three under par over the final four holes. Stacy Lewis made similar push, posting three under for the round through eight holes. After seven straight pars, Lewis needed three birdies to get into a potential playoff for a medal. Unfortunately, a birdie putt on 18 failed to fall, leaving Lews in a three-way tie for fourth with Nomura and Hee Young Yang of South Korea.
Another shot back at eight under par was the trio of Brooke Henderson, Minjee Lee and Charley Hull. Suzann Pettersen finished at seven under and Anna Nordqvist and Gerina Piller finished 10 shots behind Inbee Park at six under.
Piller had a great opportunity heading into the round playing with the final group. She started with bogeys on the first two holes and while she bounced back with birdies on three and five, never got into serious contention. Piller proceeded to make three bogeys and 10 pars and left the 18th green visibly disappointed with her outcome.
Although never in contention for a medal, word should be mentioned about the round of Russia’s Maria Verchenova. She started the day at five over par. She birdied the first and third, followed by a hole in one at the fourth. She made seven more birdies to finish with a 62. Verchenova’s nine-under par round was the best of the week.
Lexi Thompson, who entered the games as one of the favorites to earn a medal, couldn’t get anything going most of the week. She started Sunday with a bogey, but ended up with five birdies and an eagle to finish tied for 19th at three-under par.
The 28-year old Park has 17 LPGA Tour wins and 25 professional wins. Already a Hall of Famer, the gold medal adds to an incredible list of accomplishments. Park has already hinted at early retirement, so it’s unlikely she will compete in 2020. If she does retire early, the gold medal is a great way to cap off a career.