Korea’s Inbee Park hung tough on a difficult day for scoring, coming in with a one-under-par 70 as the wind kicked up at the women’s golf competition in Rio. But top-ranked Lydia Ko was the big mover, shooting a front-nine 29 and ultimately signing for a 65 to move into a tie for second with American Gerina Piller (68), two shots back.
Here are five things we learned from the third round:
1. Korea could achieve a podium sweep Saturday. The scary part: With four players in the top nine in the Rolex Rankings—the four that are in Rio—and five in the top 10, it wouldn’t even be that surprising. Eighth-ranked In Gee Chun (72) and ninth-ranked Amy Yang (70) are at five under, in a three-way tie for fifth with Great Britain’s Charley Hull (74). The fourth Korean, Sei Young Kim, shot a third-round 73 and at one under isn’t totally out of medal contention, either. If only there were a team component to this thing…
2. Inbee Park is proving everyone wrong. She has played precious little competitive golf while rehabbing a sore back and thumb, with her last made cut on the LPGA coming way back in April. There were even whispers that maybe the former No. 1 should step aside and let another Korean like 10th-ranked Ha-Na Jang into the field. Or 12th-ranked So Yeon Ryu. Or 13th-ranked Sung Hyun Park. Or even 16th-ranked Bo-Mee Lee. (We could go on.) Shows you what the “experts” know—and maybe the value of having time off, too.
3. America’s gold-medal hopes rest with Piller. That’s surprising, given that at 15 she is the lowest ranked member of Team USA. But teammate Stacy Lewis ballooned to a third-round 76, 13 shots worse than her second-round score, to fall into a tie for eighth at four under, seven off the lead. And Lexi Thompson, who hasn’t looked right all week, shot 77 to tumble into 31st place.
4. Friday’s heavy wind took a heavy toll. In gusts approaching 30 mph, Charley Hull, bidding to make golf a gold medal sweep for Great Britain, shot 74 to drop to five under, six back, while 18-year-old Brooke Henderson of Canada had a 75 and is tied for eighth place, seven off the lead. At least they fared better than India’s Aditi Ashok, also 18 and the Cinderella story in this tournament at 462 in the world. She faded from contention with a 79 to plummet to 31st place.
5. Maha Haddioui has already won. Okay, technically the 547th ranked player in the world shot 80 Friday and is in last place at 25 over par. But that’s not the point. She is the latest example of the old Olympic saw that you don’t have to win to be a winner. The woman called “Morocco’s trailblazing golfer” is the only Arab in the field. She is also the only Arab to have earned full status on the Ladies European Tour. She said she hoped to medal, but Haddioui, a former Division II golfer at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla., also said upon making the Rio Games that she hoped to “sort of inspire other women in the Arab world to take up golf.” The guess here is they’re watching, and they will.