Tokyo Olympics: Golfing gods were not with me, says Ashok after finishing fourth
- Ranked 200th in the world, Ashok had stunned the competition that included multiple winners of LPGA titles, a seven-time winner on the Japan Tour and Olympic medallists to finish with 15-under 269.
Putter drawn, Aditi Ashok drew her breath. Four days of being on the leaderboard had come down to this - a birdie on the par-4 18th hole at the Kasumigaseki Country Club. The putter cut through the tense silence and connected softly but a birdie it wasn’t. Grimacing, Ashok made par. She knew an Olympic medal, a first for India in golf, had slipped out of her grasp.
The golfing gods were not with me, said Ashok, after finishing with three-under 68 on the final day. But Ashok said she had given it her all. “I got a really good lie off the tee, I hit the fairway finally and then I had a good club in. So it was a good number too. Only then I thought that, okay, I had a chance to make a birdie,” said Ashok, 23.
“There was bunker and water (hazard) on right but still I gave myself a birdie putt and that putt I think, I mean I wanted to hole it. I gave my best attempt; it just it’s hard to force the issue when you're like 30 feet away.”
Ranked 200th in the world, Ashok had stunned the competition that included multiple winners of LPGA titles, a seven-time winner on the Japan Tour and Olympic medallists to finish with 15-under 269. That was a stroke behind New Zealand’s Lydia Ko and Japanese Mone Inami.
Ko is a former world No. 1 with 16 titles and had won silver in Rio 2016. Inami is a seven-time winner on the Japan LPGA Tour. Inami won the play-off to take silver with gold medallist and world No. 1 Nelly Korda of the USA ending a stroke ahead, on 17-under 267. Nelly’s sister Jessica, winner of six titles on the LPGA Tour, finished tied 15th.
Not many had expected her to be in this group and that is why Ashok, sole second after three rounds, generated more interest among the leading pack than the others. Many in India were awake at 3am on a weekend to follow the final day.
Another day, another tournament Ashok, 23, would have taken the fourth place finish, even be happy. But though the list of Indian fourth finishers increased by one on Saturday, it wasn’t a club Ashok said she wanted to join. “But I guess I’ve joined it. But no, I think it’s good, just even top 5 or top 10 at an Olympics is really good,” Ashok told PTI.
Inami, who zoomed into contention for gold with a brilliant final round of 65, had nine birdies but she dropped shots on the second, sixth and 18th holes.
Ashok had walked toe-to-toe with Korda and Ko. She had birdies on the fifth, sixth, eighth, 13th and 14th holes but had bogeyed on the ninth and 11th. On a day when play was stopped for 45 minutes because of rain - the tee-off times were brought forward to get the round done before a tropical storm hit - Ashok and Lydia were in a close race for the bronze. The New Zealander dropped a shot on 16th but recovered with a birdie on the 17th. Ashok couldn’t.
“Even the 17th was perfect. I hit it exactly with the speed I wanted, the line I wanted. Maybe I made too many (birdies) through the four rounds. The golfing gods were like, okay, we're not going to give her this one. But no, I just tried my best,” she said.
Ashok’s mother, Maheshwari carried her bags in Tokyo. In Rio, where she had two great rounds but finished 41st, it was her father Ashok Gudlamani. “It was an incredible experience,” she said, of her parents walking the course at successive Olympics.