For the second week in a row, Australia came up short at Kasumigaseki Country Club as Hannah Green’s three-under final round was not enough to secure a medal.
Nelly Korda made it a clean sweep of the golf gold medals for the USA, while Japan’s Mone Inami and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko claimed silver and bronze respectively.
Green finished equal fifth at 13-under after starting the day tied for third and looking down and out at the turn.
“I felt like with nine holes to go that I was nowhere near it,” Green said.
From there the West Australian breathed life into her medal push with four birdies and an eagle from holes ten to sixteen to have Australians jumping off their couches and dreaming of Australia’s first Olympic medal in golf.
“I felt like I was on cloud nine for those five holes,” the 24-year-old said.
“The birdie on ten was pretty key. I felt a little bit iffy with my putter and the rest of my game so I really needed something incredibly positive to happen.”
Suddenly, she was placing immense pressure on her rivals but her momentum was abruptly stopped by a weather day when putting for birdie on the 17th.
“I feel like I’ve had a couple of rain delays this year that have stopped my momentum,” Green said.
“I think the putt on 14 – the eagle – opened the door a bit.
“Pretty disappointed not to birdie 17 and obviously bogey 18, but if you had have told me that I was in contention for a medal at the start of the week I would have definitely taken it.”
The birdie putt at 17 would have put Green in a tie for third at the time.
“It was probably the only putt today where I wasn’t really sure of the read,” she said.
“I even pulled my caddie, which I never really do unless I’m unsure. I felt like I probably didn’t put my best stroke on it.
“I felt like because I had such good momentum that the delay kind of hurt me a little bit. But that’s what happens and I’m grateful that we even got today’s round in.”
Despite the disappointment, Green had a message for the Australian kids she has inspired with her Olympic efforts.
“Don’t give up, I think I showed that today. Anything can happen,” she said.
“Whatever you do make sure you’re enjoying yourself and I think that’s why I played better on the back nine because I looked at the bigger picture and saw where I was – playing in the Olympics for my first time.
“Just hang in there and be tough.”
Fellow Australian Minjee Lee continued her week of colourful scorecards with a three-under round of 68 to finish four-under and T-29 in her second Olympic campaign.
The highlight of Lee’s day came via an eagle at the par-5 14th – her fifth hole of the day.
“I hit 5-iron into the green because the tee was up and I holed this wiggly putt from the left-side of the green because the pin was on the back right so that was kind of fun,” Lee said.
The Evian Championship winner finished her week strongly with birdies at five, seven and nine, but was ultimately left to rue “too many soft mistakes”.
“I’ve been hitting the ball really good – and putting it good – I think mentally I wasn’t quite focused to my sharpest,” the world no.8 said.
“Evian was my last event of three weeks of travel and I’ve just been everywhere. It’s just been a really hectic travel schedule for me so I was bound to be tired, but I didn’t really think it would hit me as hard as it did.”
Nevertheless, Lee enjoyed the Olympic experience for the second-time round.
“I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t perform better, but I still had a great week with everybody,” she said.
“I know I’m always representing Australia in every event I play but that is a little bit different.”
Gold medallist and world no.1 Nelly Korda prevailed courtesy of a tense two-under par final round that was enough to hold off Inami, Ko and India’s Aditi Ashok (fourth).
The American led for the majority of the tournament, but was suddenly in a three-way tie for first place with her playing partners Ko and Ashok after a double-bogey on the par-3 seventh.
However, she broke clear at the top just as quickly as she was caught.
Birdies at eight, nine and ten took her buffer back out to three shots and from there she did not relinquish top spot.
We witnessed a more traditional two-person playoff for silver and bronze after the seven-way men’s playoff for bronze.
Inami and Ko finished one shot behind Korda at 16-under, but the Japanese woman claimed silver on the first playoff hole – much to the delight of the local volunteers watching on – after the New Zealander missed a par putt to stay it.
Ko now has a bronze medal to go with her silver from Rio.