American Korda wins gold at women’s Olympic golf competition
KAWAGOE, JAPAN - AUGUST 07: Nelly Korda of Team United States celebrates with the gold medal at the victory ceremony after the final round of the Women's Individual Stroke Play on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
American Nelly Korda won the women’s Olympic golf competition by one stroke over Japan’s Mone Inami and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko.
Korda had held the tournament lead since the second round when she carded a 9-under 62, and was able to stay ahead with consecutive rounds of 69 to finish the tournament at 17 under.
Inami and Ko both finished the tournament at 16 under, forcing the silver and bronze medals to be decided by a playoff.
Inami defeated Ko on the first hole of the playoff, the par 4 18th hole.
Ko also won a silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Canadian Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., finished tied for 29th at 4 under after putting in a final round 67, her lowest round of the tournament. Alena Sharp of Hamilton finished 49th at 5 over.
“Yeah, I’m really excited to be a two-time Olympian and to be able to compete here this week,” said Henderson. “I feel like playing in the Olympics for golf is huge, just such a big stage and feels like it reaches a lot more people which is really exciting and hopefully the future is bright for Canadian golf and all around the world.”
Korda has 3 shot lead, Sharp shoots 69 at Olympics
Canada's Alena Sharp watches her drive from the 9th tee in round 1 of the womens golf individual stroke play during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
Nelly Korda is still in command of women’s golf. The 23-year-old American has a three-shot lead over India’s Aditi Ashok going into the final round. Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ontario, is tied for 40th while Hamilton’s Alena Sharp is 44th.
Next in line are four players at 10-under: 2016 silver medalist Lydia Ko of New Zealand (66), Japan hopeful Mone Inami (68), Hannah Green of Australia (67) and Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark (70).
Statistically speaking, it doesn’t seem like a fair fight between the two leaders. While world No. 1 Korda is bombing drives and hitting short irons throughout the East Course, Ashok is dinking drives and relying on hybrids to reach a number of holes, with at least five par-4s typically measuring over 400 yards. Korda is averaging a full 44 yards further than Ashok, who is second-to-last in the field with a 233-yard average.
And yet, she makes it work with a keen understanding of her limitations and strengths. She still hit 17 of 18 greens, four more than Korda in round three. And then there’s her putting, the very thing she practiced endlessly when first introduced to the game.
Henderson moves up leaderboard, Korda shoots 62 at Olympics
Canada's Brooke Henderson watches her drive from the 14th tee in round 2 of the womens golf individual stroke play during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP) (Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images)
Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., shot a 3-under 68, while Alena Sharp of Hamilton shot an even-par 71 in the second round of the women’s golf competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Nelly Korda of the U.S., shot a 9-under 62 at Kasumigaseki Country Club to give herself a comfortable four shot lead over Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen and Emily Kristine Pedersen, and India’s Aditi Ashok, who are all tied at 9-under.
Korda made nine birdies in the second round, and an eagle on the par 4 sixth hole. A late double bogey on the 18th closed out her round.
Henderson made five birdies in the second round, after only making one birdie in the first and currently sits tied for 34th.
Her teammate, Sharp, made one bogey on the front nine, and one birdie on the back nine that put her in a tie for 46th at 3-over.
“I got to be a little bit more aggressive and take advantage of those holes that are up and roll some putts in,” Sharp said. “I’m not going to really change too much what I normally do. Like I mean I would love to go out and shoot a really low round, but we’ll see. Those putts got to drop.”
SAITAMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 04: Brooke Henderson of Canada plays the a shot on the first hole during the first round of the Women’s Individual Stroke Play event on Day 15 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 4, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/IGF)
Both Canadians struggled in the first round of women’s golf.
Alena Sharp and teammate Brooke Henderson shot opening rounds of 3-over 74. Henderson was near the top of the leaderboard for the first nine holes. But four bogeys on the back nine saw her slide down the standings.
Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden leads after carding a 5-under 66, with Nelly Korda of the U.S. and Aditi Ashok of India behind her at 4-under
While the summer heat was something of a forgotten concern ahead of the Tokyo Olympics due to the pandemic, it definitely was noticeable last week during the men’s golf competition and became a real-life factor Wednesday as the women’s tournament got underway at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Leader Sagstrom certainly didn’t experience the 41C/105.8F afternoon heat index in her home country of Sweden, but she did attend Louisiana State University, now lives in Orlando, Florida, and has played in even worse furnace-like conditions in Thailand and Singapore.
American Schauffele wins gold at men’s Olympic golf tournament
Xander Schauffele won the Olympic gold medal in golf in a tense finish.
Schauffele was tied for the lead with Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia with two holes to play. The American made birdie from 6 feet on the 17th hole to regain the lead. Then after a bad tee shot that forced him to play short of the water, he hit wedge to 4 feet and made the par to win.
“I felt like for the most part of the day I stayed very calm,” Schauffele said. “I usually look very calm but there’s something terrible happening inside at times. So I was able to learn on those moments where I’ve lost coming down the stretch, where I hit a bad shot or a bad wedge or a bad putt and sort of lose my cool. But I felt like today I really, I thought I had a one-shot lead going into 16 or 17 and I looked at the board and I saw Rory shot 61, so that was a nice wake up call for me; thank goodness there was a board there or I wouldn’t have known. Yeah, it was a roller coaster day for me especially on that back nine coming in and just happy I could fall back on parts of my game to sort of pull me through.”
Sabbatini set an Olympic record with a 61 and won the silver.
“I was out there today and I kept just trying to remind myself, okay, don’t think ahead, don’t think ahead, just enjoy the moment that you’re in because you don’t know what it’s going to end, just enjoy every hole as it comes,” Sabbatini said. “It just seemed like every time I kind of had a hiccup out there I was like, oh, maybe this is the end of the run, but okay. And then all of a sudden, I kicked back into gear. So it was a lot of fun and it was just one of those rare days that you have on the golf course.”
The bronze medal was determined by playoff which included a star-packed field that also included Matsuyama (who shot 67), Paul Casey of Great Britain (68), Rory McIlroy of Ireland (67), Mito Pereira of Chile (67) and Sebastián Muñoz of Colombia (67). It was so large, it required splitting into two groups.
Matsuyama and Casey were eliminated first, followed by Muñoz, then Pereira and McIlroy.
Morikawa bogeyed the final hole after his approach to the 18th green plugged in the steep upslope of the fronting bunker. Pan sank a par-saving putt for the medal.
Canada’s Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., finished 13th (65) at 13-under and Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., (75) was 50th at 3-under.
Canadians climb back into contention at Olympic men’s golf tournament
Mackenzie Hughes (Photo by Kazuhiro NOGI / AFP)
Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners are tied for 17th after three rounds at the Olympic men’s golf tournament, seven shots behind the leader heading into Sunday’s final round.
Hughes, from Dundas, Ont., carded a 65.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., had a 66 to climb up the leaderboard.
American Xander Schauffele maintained the one-stroke lead he held at the beginning of the day, though now the closest pursuer is Japan’s own golf hero, Hideki Matsuyama, who replaced Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz as Schauffele’s closest pursuer at Kasumigaseki Country Club.
Canadian men lose ground during second round of Olympic golf tournament
Both Canadians slipped down the leaderboard during the second round of the men’s Olympic golf tournament in Japan on Friday.
Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., shot a 1-over 72 and dropped into a tie for 39th at 1-under.
Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., is tied for 34th overall at 2-under par thru 16 holes.
Due to lightning, the second round was suspended at 11:57 a.m. and resumed at 2:21 p.m., a delay of 2 hours, 24 minutes. Another thunderstorm forced the second round to be suspended for the day at 5:20 p.m. with 16 players left to complete round two. Play will resume at 7:45 a.m. Saturday morning with round three scheduled to start at 9:03 a.m. off split tees.
American Xander Schauffele leads at 11-under par with rounds of 68-63. Schauffele’s father, Stefan, is French/German and grew up in Germany as an Olympic decathlete hopeful before a car crash with a drunk driver caused loss of vision in his left eye, ending his Olympic dream at age 20
Conners, Hughes T20 with opening-round suspended at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
KAWAGOE, JAPAN - JULY 29: Corey Conners of Team Canada lines up a putt on the first green during the first round of the Men's Individual Stroke Play on day six of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kasumigaseki Country Club on July 29, 2021 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Canada’s Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes are at 2-under 69 after the first round of the men’s golf tournament. Conners and Hughes are tied for 20th with nine other golfers, six strokes behind leader Sepp Straka of Austria.
Play was suspended two-and-a-half hours due to a thunderstorm.
Mackenzie Hughes & Corey Conners carry momentum into Tokyo
SAITAMA, JAPAN - JULY 27: Mackenzie Hughes of Canada practices prior to the Men’s Individual Stroke Play event on Day 7 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Kasumigaseki Country Club on July 27, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR/IGF)
They played golf together as juniors.
Then, were college teammates.
Both play on the PGA Tour.
Now, they are Olympians.
Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes will be making their Olympic debut in Tokyo, with the men’s golf tournament happening from July 28-31 at Kasumigaseki Country Club. The two Canadians share many stops along with their respective golf careers. Add representing Canada at the Summer Olympics to that list.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Conners said on a Zoom media availability prior to the Olympics. “Neither of us would have ever thought that we’d be Olympians or PGA Tour winners and continue to be great friends, but this is amazing. Hard to believe it happened.”
Conners and Hughes were born a mere 114 kilometres away from each other in Listowel and Dundas, Ontario respectively. They each met at Listowel Golf Club for a junior golf event when they were 12 years old. Flash forward to the present and the pair from small towns are sporting the red and white at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Both golfers experienced success as juniors. Hughes enrolled at Kent State University in 2008-09, with Conners joining him two years later. Under the leadership of Kent State golf coach Herb Page, Conners and Hughes propelled the program to the final eight of the 2012 NCAA Championship.
Conners won the Ontario Junior Championship in 2010. Hughes secured back-to-back victories in the Canadian Amateur Championship in 2011 and 2012. In 2012, both Conners and Hughes earned spots on the Canadian national junior team, coached by Derek Ingram. Competing in the World Team Amateur Competition in Turkey, Hughes, Conners, and Toronto native Albin Choi placed sixth.
“This is a very big event for both of them and I know they’re really looking forward to competing and trying to win a medal for Canada, with a long-time friend and teammate,” Ingram said. “For me, I couldn’t be more happy to be coaching long time students and great people who I’ve worked with for many years.”
It didn’t take Hughes long to record his first professional victory, the Cape Breton Celtic Classic on the Mackenzie Tour in 2013. Three years later, Hughes won on both the then Web.com Tour (Price Cutter Charity Championship) and the PGA Tour, winning a five-man playoff at the RSM Classic.
Conners, after turning pro in 2015, waited until the 2019 Valero Texas Open to win his first PGA Tour title. It not only qualified the young Canadian into the Masters the week after but a plethora of major championships the last couple of seasons.
It’s not hard to spot Conners and Hughes at the majors; the Canadians in the field often take a group photo together during a practice round. It speaks to the camaraderie that is felt amongst the Canadian contingent of men’s golfers, both young and old.
The major championships in 2021 provided an opportunity for Conners and Hughes to get in the mix against the best in the world. At the four majors, a Canadian finished in the top-20, and at two of them, Conners and Hughes earned a top-10. The 2021 U.S. Open saw Hughes in the final group on Sunday and Conners in the penultimate pairing during the final round of the latest Open Championship.
These results demonstrate how far Conners and Hughes improved since turning pro and their affinity for the big tournaments. While the two are rookies at the Olympics, they are no strangers to playing against golf’s best players, such as Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, or Rory McIlroy.
The Olympics will look and feel no different. No fans and rigorous health protocols define the daily realities for the Olympic athletes due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Some top golfers, like World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, are absent from the Olympics, due to the restrictions, the pandemic, and the busy golf schedule. For Conners and Hughes, skipping the Games didn’t cross their minds. They immediately said yes when given the opportunity to compete in the Olympics, not only to represent Team Canada but also how rare this chance is.
Four years ago, Graham DeLaet and David Hearn competed for Canada in Rio, finishing 20th and T-30th respectively. With how well Conners and Hughes are playing coming into this event, coupled with their motivation, there’s no doubt the chance to get on the podium is within reach.
“Hopefully we’ll do a little better and win some medals,” Hughes said.
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MIDLAND, MICHIGAN - JULY 18: Teammates Brooke Henderson (R) and Alena Sharp walk off the first green during round two of the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational at Midland Country Club on July 18, 2019 in Midland, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
They were the Olympic rookies at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Five years later, Brooke Henderson and Alena Sharp are Canadian Olympic veterans.
The Tokyo Olympics this summer will be Henderson and Sharp’s second Games together representing the red and white. With success in the LPGA apparent for both golfers in the five years since Rio 2016, both Henderson and Sharp revel in the opportunity to medal in Tokyo.
“I am honoured and proud to be a part of Team Canada this summer,” Henderson said. “I love representing my country and feeling all of the support of family, friends, and Canadian golf fans back home.”
Sharp turned pro in 2003 and is still going strong at age 40. With nine professional wins, Sharp continues to be a model of consistency for Canadian women’s golf on the LPGA Tour. Look no further than the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, where she started with two sub-70 rounds, before finishing a T-25.
As Sharp is on the backend of her career, Henderson is just beginning. She meteorically rose in the women’s game, winning the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in 2016. Since then, Henderson has 10 LPGA Tour victories, making her the winningest Canadian golfer in the sport’s history (male or female).
As Henderson experienced a soar in popularity and success, she had her Canadian compatriot Sharp to lean on for advice and mentorship.
“It means a lot to share this journey with Alena again,” Henderson said. “She’s been a huge mentor and a great friend to me.”
Since competing in the Rio Olympics, Henderson and Sharp continue to elevate Canadian women’s golf with class and excellence. At the 2018 CP Women’s Open in Saskatchewan, Sharp brought awareness and respect to the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, evidenced by her green and yellow golf bag. Henderson went on to cement her legacy at Wascana Country Club with a CP Women’s Open title, becoming the first Canadian woman to win the national golf championship since Jocelyne Bourassa in 1973.
Henderson’s first embraces were with her sister/caddie, Brittany, and her Dad, Dave. Sharp was the first to congratulate Henderson, spraying the champagne in celebration on the 18th green.
Whenever Henderson wins, it’s not long after she receives a congratulatory message from Sharp. Henderson also returns the favour, being there for her teammate during important moments of her life. For example, when Sharp got married last November to her caddie and partner, Sarah Bowman, Henderson included herself in the festivities.
It’s evident that the bond between Henderson and Sharp runs deep beyond the tee box, fairway, and putting green.
“We’re there to cheer each other on in the golf competition, but when you go to an Olympic Games, you become part of a bigger team,” Sharp said.
Competing in the Olympics will look different in 2021 than in 2016. For Henderson and Sharp, they will practice together at Kasumigaseki Country Club, scouting the course before the women’s golf competition commencing. Both Canadians will lean on their male counterparts, Corey Conners and Mackenzie Hughes, for advice, as the men’s tournament occurs a week before. The women’s competition takes place from August 4-7, 2021.
“Anything can happen over four days,” Henderson said. “You have to work hard, focus, get a good plan together and I’m just excited to have the opportunity to go and compete.”
Life beyond the course won’t possess the jubilation that exists in the Olympic Village. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no fans will be permitted on the course, as well as no friends and family. Instead, golfers must rely on their own energy to get motivated.
Henderson and Sharp are used to playing tournaments without spectators over the past year. Away from the course, they will keep themselves busy, whether that’s playing cards or watching Netflix.
The Tokyo Olympics are five years in the making for Henderson and Sharp. After a T-7 finish for Henderson and 30th for Sharp, they are looking to build on their performances to get on the podium.
Most of all, in an Olympics unlike any other, Henderson and Sharp will have their partnership and friendship, that will extend far beyond the outcome at the Games.
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