Call it a “double American eagle”? Two American aces?
After Team USA’s Xander Schauffele won gold in the men’s tournament last week, 23-year-old World No. 1 Nelly Korda earned the United States a second golf gold in the women’s tournament. Closing out the fourth and final round, she hit two-under par for a 17-under competition total.
Korda is a six-time winner on the LPGA Tour and earned her first major at the Women’s PGA Championship in June. She dominated the second round with a nine-under-par 62, tying the Olympic golf record for lowest round. Korda had maintained a solid, if not overwhelming, lead at the end of round three, scoring a two-under par for a 15-under total.
That didn’t provide much breathing room in round four, which saw Korda struggle to stay on top. At least a dozen golfers were well within striking distance of gold, spurring the other leaders to play more aggressively. Korda took the opposite approach: Showing nerves, she hesitated often and opted for a more conservative strategy. This proved disastrous during the seventh hole, in which the American double-bogeyed and erased her two-under lead completely. In doing so, she briefly tied New Zealand’s Lydia Ko — the Rio silver medalist — and India’s Aditi Ashok for first.
Korda bounced back immediately, with birdies on the eighth, ninth, and tenth holes — and then held tight to first place.
Ko, in particular, played amazing golf in the final round; she was five-under through nine holes. By the 15th hole, she was tied for second — locked in a dead-heat with Japan’s Mone Inami.
Just as Inami and Korda were finishing the 17th hole, the horn blew — and a predicted thunderstorm made an appearance. Thick rain drops splattered the camera and golfers exited the course for a 30-minute delay.
Play returned at 12:15 AM ET — and, almost immediately, Inami sunk a birdie, tying for first. Ko’s subsequent birdie put her in position for bronze. But Korda’s attempt at a birdie on the 17th hole went too far, forcing the final hole to determine a winner.
With an opportunity to jump to first on the 18th hole, Inami instead drove a ball into a sandpit. Korda hit a straight shot down the course — and completed the 18th hole with a two-under, final-round 69 — as well as a gold medal.
In the silver-bronze playoff, Inami managed par for an under-16 tournament total. Ko hit a bogie to win bronze — adding to the silver she won at Rio 2016.
Asked what she proved today in a post-competition interview, Korda said quite simply: “[I have] a lot of fight.”
By clinching gold, Korda became the first American woman to win an Olympic golf medal since Margaret Abbott in 1900.