AFP/ Kawagoe, Japan
World number one Nelly Korda carded a 67 to be just a shot off the lead yesterday during a first round played in searing temperatures at the women’s Olympic golf tournament which caused US star Lexi Thompson’s caddie to pull out with heatstroke.
Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom has a slender lead at five-under par after an attritional day in heat and humidity at Kasumigaseki Country Club where the thermometer topped 36C.
“I was striking the ball all right but not great,” said the world number 75 Sagstrom of her 66 on the par-71 layout. “My short game was my saviour.” Thompson admitted she had been unwell herself before suffering the blow of losing her caddie, Jack Fulghum, on the back nine. USA golf team coach Donna Wilkins stepped in to carry Thompson’s bag for the final holes.
America’s Korda had six birdies in her four-under par round and said it had been important to keep hydrated as the sun beat down relentlessly. Also on four-under par is India’s Aditi Ashok, who as an 18-year-old featured high on the first-round leaderboard at Rio five years ago when she was the youngest player in the field. “Last time I was a rookie, basically, and I just finished my high school exams and then I was at the Olympics two months later,” she said.
South Korea’s Park In-bee made a solid start to her gold medal defence with a two-under 69, as only four shots covered the top 23 on a packed leaderboard. Park was off to a fast start in a group containing her fellow Rio medallists, Lydia Ko (silver) and Feng Shanshan (bronze). New Zealand’s Lydia Ko returned a one-under 70 to be in a tie for 16th, while China’s Feng, who has indicated she may retire from the LPGA Tour after the Games, struggled to three-over 74.
World number two Ko Jin-young of South Korea fought back from a sloppy start with four birdies in five holes from the 13th to get to three-under par, a 68 leaving her just two off the lead. Matilda Castren of Finland and Carlota Ciganda of Spain also shot 68s to lie tied fourth with Ko Jin-young.
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