RIO DE JANEIRO – Harukyo Nomura carded the second-best round of the final day of the women’s Rio Olympic golf tournament on Saturday to fly up the leaderboard, but it was not enough as she finished tied for fourth, seven shots behind gold medalist Inbee Park.
Park, a seven-time major winner on the LPGA Tour, shot her third 66 of the tournament, with the smooth-swinging South Korean confirming she was a cut above the rest of the field around the Olympic Golf Course as she finished at 16-under 268.
“I feel extremely honored and proud that I got to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games,” said Park. “It feels truly unreal. I am just so happy to be standing on the highest spot on the podium.”
“I have won many tournaments but I have never felt this before,” she said.
New Zealand’s Lydia Ko birdied the final hole to move to 11-under and claim silver, relegating China’s Feng Shanshan, who finished 10-under, to the podium’s third step.
“At the end of the second day I wasn’t in the greatest position but playing well in the last two days has led me to this point. I am so proud of myself and the team for getting this silver medal. It is a huge honor,” said Ko.
“It is something I have always been dreaming about and I can’t believe it has come true.”
After setting herself up with a 2-under on the front nine, Nomura let rip on the way back to the clubhouse, logging four birdies including three over the final four holes to close out her tournament with a 6-under 65 and roar into a provisional medal spot at 9-under, bronze at the time.
But conditions were benign for the leaders as they rolled home, allowing Ko and Feng to grab medals.
“I hung in there until the end, I missed out on the bronze medal by a stroke and that’s a waste, but I gave my best,” said Nomura, who has won twice on the LPGA tour in 2016.
“There was supposed to be some wind, but it didn’t materialize and I could go for it with both my shots and putts.
“I was thinking (as I finished) I might fall one stroke short. The others are really strong players.”
The round of the tournament, and indeed the Olympic Games, went to Russia’s Maria Verchenova who made it around the par-71 layout by shooting 62, the lowest score seen in either the women’s tournament or the men’s.
“It’s amazing. It is a course that really suits me,” Verchenova said. “I knew that from the first day, it was just tough, the wind was funny. Today was one of those days when I could hold putts and shoot really, really low.”
Aside from the fact it involved nine birdies and an ace, Verchenova’s round was impressive because she had only broken par once over the previous three days and her course-record round took her from a tie for 41st at 5-over to a tie for 16th at 4-under 280.
Japan’s other player in the field, Shiho Oyama, went backwards again, shooting a 74 to end her tournament at 8-over and 42nd.
For Nomura, the Olympic tournament and particularly her strong showing has only whet her appetite for more, four years later.
“I enjoyed it. I could experience what it’s like to play in the Olympics and I definitely would like to compete in the next Olympics in Japan,” she said.