5 Things: How Park turned it around and a tap-in costs Nomura a medal
1) How did Inbee Park do it?
Park’s preparations for Rio couldn’t have been much worse. Her last round on the LPGA Tour was a 79 to miss the cut at the Women’s PGA Championship, she then missed the next two Majors and a start in a Korean LPGA, to bolster her withered confidence, ended in another blank weekend.
All of this was down to a thumb injury, a problem which made her a doubt for the Games and gave ammunition to those in her home country who thought she should step aside. In short she was a waste of a spot.
And now she is the first gold medal winner in 116 years, Park didn’t just win she routed the field. World No 1 Lydia Ko was five shots back. Three of Park’s rounds were 66s.
So what changed from the player who couldn’t put two rounds together to the one who reminded us all of the one who has won six Majors since 2013?
“I wanted to know what to work on. That’s why I really decided to play that week (in Korea).
I found the problems on my swing. I found the problems on the greens. I found the problems everywhere. I knew what to work on coming into this week.
“I prepared very hard in the last month to come this week and obviously there was nothing guaranteed, because I haven’t played that well this season, and I haven’t really played that many events with the injury. I was able to make my body, physically and mentally, strong enough to compete this week.
“There was a lot of naysayers back in Korea, a lot of people was saying that maybe it is better to have another player in the field, a fellow South Korean player, which is very understandable. But I really wanted to do well this week to show a lot of people that I can still play.”
Park revealed that she worked with two coaches for the past month and the new one, a friend of her husband’s, added some useful swing pointers.
The rest was down to a talent and mental strength that the game has rarely witnessed. That said the 28-year-old might look like nothing bothers her, the reality is a little different.
“I felt quite pressured and quite nervous all week this week. I can’t compare it to any other week. This is something I’ve never done before. I’ve won Majors, but I haven’t won a gold medal, so this feels definitely very, very special and nothing I want to change.”
Park might step away from the game now to try and start a family, if she does this will be her defining moment.
2) Trusty sidekicks a big thing in Rio
This is a great stat; 21 of the 60 women playing in the Olympics had a relative or significant other on the bag for them – five are parents, five are siblings, five are husbands and six boyfriends or fiancés.
For some this is regular thing, for others it was more of a one off.
Marianna Skarpnord had her European Tour fiancé, European Tour professional Richard Green, acting as her caddy and it helped her to opening rounds of 69-66 – she would go on to finish 25th.
“The last probably three to four years, he’s caddied maybe between three and five times a year. It’s been pretty good. It’s been a couple of incidents on the course, but the last couple years, he’s been all right!” she said.
As for Ireland’s Leona Maguire she had her twin sister Lisa (pictured above) at her side.
After their opening round the amateur World No 1 said: “She was good. She did everything she needed to do. She was under a lot of pressure especially to keep up when we were on the clock. It’s easier when you’re not on the clock. She is a better putter than me, I’ll give her that. I could have had her hit a few putts for me.”
3) Slow play – the problem that never goes away
The pace of play was pretty bad in Rio with rounds taking five and a half hours. Stacy Lewis described that as ‘putting it nicely’.
“I don’t know why it took so long. I knew it was going to take probably close to five, between hour and a half and five. It’s a lot of golf course to walk and takes some time, but I didn’t expect it to be that slow.”
And we got our first slow-play penalty with Brazil’s Victoria Lovelady losing a shot on the 15th hole in round two. She was warned on the 10th and then had a shot added five holes later.
The home hope pleaded her case, explaining that she had to ‘back off a lot of shots’ due to the noise from the crowds but to no avail.
“I didn’t see it as valid,” she said. “They have to do their job. It’s the Olympics. They have to be very strict. I respect their choice. What can I do?”
4) When you miss a five-inch putt.. and miss bronze by a shot
On day one of the women’s return to the Olympics Haru Nomura missed a birdie putt at the 11th hole. She then went to backhand the ball in for par, barely made contact with the ball and had to tap in for a bogey.
Fast forward three days and Nomura put together the lowest round of the final round and, you’ve guessed it, missed out on a play-off for the bronze by a shot.
She did though take some revenge on the 11th, making a birdie three.
5) ICYMI: Lydia finally makes her first hole-in-one
The New Zealander has a habit of doing something special on the biggest of stages. Bizarrely though she had yet to write a ‘1’ on her scorecard.
Until this happened…
Hello, Lydia Ko! pic.twitter.com/7X6lwRmsdl
— Lady Golfer Magazine (@LadyGolferMag) August 19, 2016