KAWAGOE, Japan – It seems that the first big championship was just the beginning Nelly Korda. Now she’s a Olympic champion, and she left little doubt on Saturday about who is the best in women’s golf.
Korda kept her nervous during a chaotic chase for medals and a storm delay at the end of an hour, and quietly took two wells from just within 30 feet for a one-shot victory.
The 23-year-old Korda gave the Americans a whip of gold medals in golf. Xander Schauffele won the men’s competition last Sunday.
Jessica Korda, Nelly’s 28-year-old sister, who scored a 64 for the low score of the final round, ran to the green and the sisters hugged and celebrated themselves.
Nelly is the first player, male or female, to win a major and the Olympic gold medal in the same year. She also won the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June and has won three of the last four individual tournaments.
“It’s almost a legendary status as a golfer, period, male or female,” Jessica said. “It’s hard to win here, and she makes it look easy, but the girls are good. It’s crazy for me to do it. It’s like a total BOAT (Greatest Of All Time) status to me. “
Mone Inami of Japan gave the host nation a silver medal, and it was almost better than that.
Inami, who received the honor of the first tap-in on Wednesday, ran five birdies to a finish in a six-hole battle, the last one 8-foot on the 17th hole to equalize the lead. But her approach to the 18th puts the sand on the slope of a bunker. The best she could do was jump up to 30 feet, and she reached a 65-yard line.
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko had a 35-foot birdie putt to play on the 18th. She left it 4 feet short and had to make it for a 65 to make one behind.
In the playoffs for the silver, Ko found a bunker of tea on the 18th hole, had to lie down and miss a 10-foot putt.
Ko had to be content with the bronze, after winning the silver in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. She is the only golfer to have won medals in both Olympics since returning to golf after an absence of 112 years.
There was nothing easy about this final round for Korda, even with a three-stroke lead. She came level for the lead, rebuilding it early on the back nine to three shots and then finishing with six pars while three players ran her.
The list includes Aditi Ashok of India, who has been at a major disadvantage all week with her lack of distance from the tea, some of which was caused in the summer by a battle with COVID-19. With her magic on the greens, Ashok stayed in the mix all day.
Her 12-foot birdie to keep up with Ko burned the rim of the cup on the 17th hole, and she had a 25-foot birdie on the 18th to stay in a medal fight. It slides at the hole.
Korda finished 17th under 267 and scored two double bogeys this week.
One came on the 18th hole of the second round when she needed a birdie for a 59. Korda and her boyfriend did not realize the box was 30 yards ahead, leading to the wrong play in the rough behind a tree.
The other one was on par-3 seventh on Saturday when her tea shot went left to a collection area. It took Korda three slides to get on the green, and the double bogey dropped her to a tie with Ko and Ashok.
All three had the par-5 eighth birdie Korda with a 25-foot putt that was as big as any other — and Korda ran at birdies at the next two holes to regain her three-stroke lead.
Inami, Ko and Ashok all chased away until they were full of holes and Korda left a gold medal, with a future that never seemed brighter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.