Sports

Tokyo Olympics: A solid start by Aditi, placed second ahead of big names

V Krishnaswamy August 4 | Updated on August 04, 2021

He is one shot behind the leader Madalene Sagstrom of Sweden, who shot 66.

Aditi Ashok, who caught the golfing world’s attention five years ago at the Rio Olympics, got off to a brilliant start at the Tokyo Olympics Golf competition. She carded 4-under 67 in the first round at the Kasumigaseki Country Club. Sharing the second place with World No. 1 Nelly Korda, India’s Aditi was one shot behind the leader, Madalene Sagstrom of Sweden, who shot 66.

Aditi may well have had a share of the lead but for a bogey on the 18th hole. While Sagstrom shot a bogey free 5-under 66, Aditi had five birdies against one bogey and that on the closing hole. She was placed well ahead of some big names in women’s golf, including the formidable defending champion, Inbee Park (69).

India’s other entrant in the field, Diksha Dagar (76) had a rough start in her maiden Olympics as she had five bogeys and no birdies.

The 60-player field will play 18 holes each day and there will be no cut, so all players get to play 72 holes.

Aditi birdied fifth and ninth from 15 feet and seven feet respectively. On the back nine she added birdies on the 13th from 15 feet and another from almost 18 feet on 17th. In between she had another birdie on 14th from under three feet after a superb approach. Placed at 5-under she bogeyed the last after missing a par from under seven feet.

A good day

Speaking on her round, Aditi said, “I think I played better than I expected today because I had a lot of hybrids into the greens, so I didn't really expect to be like 5-under through 17. But, I kind of holed some (good) putts and holed important par putts as well which kept the momentum. So, yeah, it was a good day.”

Five years ago when Aditi got into the Olympics, her father, Ashok, was on the bag and this time around it is her mother, Maheshwari, who has been a big influence on her. Aditi said, “Yeah, my mom, she's caddying for me. Last time I had my dad on the bag, so the experience was just so incredible. I was like I want to have my mom next time and I made good on that promise.”

Rio’s experience

Talking of her experience of Rio, she said, “Last time I was a rookie basically and I just finished my high school exams and then I was at the Olympics in two months. But this time I think definitely a lot more experience, just playing on the LPGA the last five years makes you way better as a player than I was at Rio. And I think the Olympic experience was, I didn't finish as well as I wanted to last time, but 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.”

Aditi had attracted global attention with a start of 68-68 in the first two rounds at Rio, but then faded to T-41st. Aditi, who has 18 Major appearances, the most by any Indian player, men or women, has always maintained that she could not wait to get to Tokyo. And when she did a year later than planned she began solidly.

As for whether she is comfortable being the face of Indian women’s golf, Aditi said, “A lot of stuff comes with it that you maybe don't really like, but it's important for little girls back home to have that image of a golfer internationally on the LPGA or at the Olympics and not just participating but also kind of contending here and there. So, yeah.”

Sagstrom has one LPGA title won in 2020, while Korda has won three LPGA Tour titles this season including the Women's PGA Championship in June.

South Korea's world number two Ko Jin-young was one shot behind in a stroke further back on three-under with Finland's Matilda Castren and Spaniard Carlota Ciganda. All three carded 3-under 68 each.

The South Korean team also boasts of the reigning Olympic champion Park Inbee (69) and World No. 4 Kim Sei-young (69) who are Tied-7th and sixth-ranked Kim Hyo-joo (70) who is T-16th.

New Zealand's former World number one Lydia Ko (70) was four behind the leader, while Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn, a double major winner, stumbled to 77 with six bogeys and is tied for 58th in the 60-player field. Major winners Feng Shanshan of China and Canadian Brooke Henderson shot 74 each.

Published on August 04, 2021

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