Korda in contention as heat takes toll at Olympics women's golf
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Kawagoe (Japan) (AFP) –
World number one Nelly Korda carded a 67 to be just a shot off the lead Wednesday 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 36 Celsius.
"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.
"I came into the day having a sore throat... and then dealing with my caddie not being able to finish, it's tough," said Thompson, the world number 12 who shot a one-over par 72.
On the 15th hole, an ailing Fulghum asked Thompson: "Do I look white to you?" and then had to sit down to wait for medical attention.
USA golf team coach Donna Wilkins stepped in to carry Thompson's bag for the final holes.
"I mean, I was so worried about him. I'm from Florida and I'm still not used to that kind of heat," said Thompson.
"I just hope that he's okay and he gets the hydration he needs and nutrients to go into the next few days. If not I'll figure something else out. I just want him to be healthy."
- 'I felt light-headed' -
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.
"I think the mental aspect of it is probably the hardest, just because you have to keep yourself hydrated and you kind of lose it a little out there," said the current US Women's PGA Champion.
"Like when I was teeing up some balls, I definitely felt a little light-headed. But kept myself in it, made sure I drank a lot of electrolytes too."
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.
"Just seeing the effect that it had on golf in India was inspiring and that's kind of what motivated me for this one as well."
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.
"I had a couple missed shots on the front nine, but I had a great round," said Ko Jin-young. "A great finish on the back nine. So I'm happy."
Matilda Castren of Finland and Carlota Ciganda of Spain also shot 68s to lie tied fourth with Ko Jin-young.
An elite field of 60 players containing the entire top 10 in the world and 16 of the top 20 are battling it out over the same course that saw pulsating drama in the men's event last week, culminating in an astonishing seven-way playoff for the bronze medal.
© 2021 AFP