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Mone Inami won Japan's first Olympic golf medal when she emerged victorious from a playoff for silver against New Zealand's Lydia Ko on Saturday, with both players finishing one shot behind gold medalist Nelly Korda of the United States.

Inami beat Ko in a sudden-death playoff after both players shot 6-under 65s and were tied for second on 16-under after 72 holes at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama Prefecture.

Korda, winner of the Women's PGA Championship in June, finished with a 69 for a 17-under total, helping the United States secure a gold medal sweep of golf following Xander Schauffele's triumph last week.

Korda is the first golfer to win a major title and Olympic gold in the same year.

It was the second golf playoff at these games after the men's event ended with a seven-way showdown for bronze on Sunday.

"Carrying the weight of the Hinomaru (flag) and winning a medal is the best thing that happened to my life. I feel like I've accomplished an important mission," Inami said.

The 22-year-old turned professional in 2018 and had a breakthrough season in 2021, winning five of her seven Japan LPGA tour titles and raising her world ranking high enough to earn her an Olympic spot.

On the penultimate day of the Tokyo Olympics, two-time major champion Ko, the silver medalist in Rio, missed her par putt on the first playoff hole. She adds a bronze to her medal collection.

Mone Inami of Japan during her final round at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture | REUTERS
Mone Inami of Japan during her final round at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture | REUTERS

Inami hit both fairway and green in the playoff, played on the 18th, two-putting for par on the hole she bogeyed when in a share of the tournament lead just minutes earlier.

"I had expected Lydia to make her par putt and move on to the 10th (for the second playoff hole) so I was bit surprised. But I have a 100% success rate in playoffs so once we were in a playoff I was ready to win," Inami said.

"The Olympics have always been a dream of mine, and I'm glad I was able to keep it from becoming a nightmare. I didn't imagine any of this. It's a miracle I even qualified."

Korda, who entered the day with a three-shot lead, held off charges from several challenges.

"It feels amazing. (Inami and Ko) both played super well, we're all bunched up there. It was very stressful, but I kept it together. I fought pretty hard," said Korda.

"(It was) probably the most stressed I've ever been in a final round. I can't compare it. I can't explain it, I wish I could. It's an amazing achievement."

Mone Inami, Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko on the podium following the final round of the women's golf tournament.  | AFP-JIJI
Mone Inami, Nelly Korda and Lydia Ko on the podium following the final round of the women’s golf tournament. | AFP-JIJI

Korda's older sister Jessica was also among the 60-woman field. She finished tied for 15th at 9-under. Their brother Sebastian qualified for the U.S. Olympic tennis team but declined a spot, choosing to stay focused on tour events.

India's Aditi had a real shot at winning India's first Olympic medal in golf as she was tied for third when rain and the threat of thunderstorms delayed play for about 30 minutes in the afternoon. She finished fourth at 15-under after shooting four rounds in the 60s, a stellar performance for a player ranked 200 in the world.

Japan's Nasa Hataoka was in a group of six players tied for ninth on 10-under, which included Yuka Saso, the first major winner from the Philippines.

Saso, whose father is Japanese, shot a 74 in her opening round but bounced back with a 68, 67 and a Saturday 65 to roar up the leaderboard in her Olympic debut.

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