Inbee Park of the Republic of Korea captured Asia’s first Olympic golf gold medal to underline her status as one of the modern greats of the women’s game.
The 28-year-old from Seoul recorded her third sublime 66 at Reserva de Marapendi Golf Course in Rio de Janeiro to win the first women’s competition since 1900 by five shots from New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and by six from Shanshan Feng of China. Park finished on a 16-under-par total of 268 with scores of 66-66-70-66.
Park turned the final day in front of a sell-out crowd into a stunning exhibition of brilliantly controlled golf, extending her lead from two strokes overnight into a commanding five-shot victory over world No.1 Ko, who rolled in a seven-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole for a 69 and 273 total to claim the silver medal. Feng matched Ko’s closing score to take the bronze on 274.
All six medals awarded in the two golf competitions have been distributed among six different nations – Korea, New Zealand and China in the women’s competition and Great Britain (Justin Rose), Sweden (Henrik Stenson) and the United States (Matt Kuchar) in last week’s men’s contest.
The new Olympic champion said: “This is definitely one of the special moments in my golfing career and in my whole life. It feels great. Obviously representing your country and winning the gold is so special. It’s just really all I’ve wanted.”
Park’s triumph was all the more extraordinary for the fact that she has only played once competitively since June, the result of an on-going problem with her left thumb which curtailed her 2016 appearances to just 10 starts on the LPGA Tour. However, with seven majors in her locker, there was no disputing her supreme talent, and Park delivered a masterclass in precision golf, accruing seven birdies – offset by two back-nine bogeys – in holding the opposition at arm’s length.
She added: “This is something I’ve really been dreaming of coming into the week. There were so many Korean people out here supporting me and it almost felt like we were in Korea. Seeing how much support I had this week, I’m just happy that I finished well. This is definitely a big relief.”