Park In-bee of South Korea tees off on the first hole in the opening round of the Tokyo Olympic women's golf tournament at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
SAITAMA -- Competing at the Olympics can make even the best of the best nervous, and LPGA Hall of Famer and 2016 Olympic gold champion Park In-bee was no exception on Wednesday.
Park opened her gold medal defense with a two-under 69 at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, north of Tokyo, on Wednesday. She went bogey-free on the front nine, but had a bogey at the 18th as her lone blemish. Park is three shots behind the leader, Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden.
Park, long known as a stoic athlete with steely nerves, said afterward she had never been so jittery before a round this year.
"Once I stood on the first tee, memories of 2016 came back to me," Park said. "I am representing my country here. I don't usually get nervous but this was the most nervous I've felt all year,"
That Park played with the two other medalists from 2016, Lydia Ko of New Zealand (silver) and Feng Shanshan of China (bronze), also helped take Park back to five years ago in Rio de Janeiro.
"This is probably my last Olympics," Park said. "And once I started thinking that I won't have another opportunity like this, I really wanted to play well."
Park birdied three of her first six holes, but then her usually reliable putter cost her a few birdie opportunities.
"My play on the front nine was flawless, and I kept giving myself chances to make birdies on the back nine," Park said. "My putting wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. And the little mistake on the final hole led to the bogey."
Park said the greens weren't particularly tricky, but the ones that she thought would certainly find the cup missed the mark.
"I misjudged the breaks and speed on some holes," she added. "I thought I'd been prepared for these greens, but I'll keep trying to make adjustments." (Yonhap)