Olympics: New Zealand's top-ranked Lydia Ko seeks gold as women's golf returns

Lydia Ko shoots from the first fairway during the final round of the women's 2016 US Open golf tournament.
Lydia Ko shoots from the first fairway during the final round of the women's 2016 US Open golf tournament.PHOTO: REUTERS

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Top-ranked teen Lydia Ko might ruin her game if she wins the first women's Olympic golf title in 116 years, because she says she might never remove her gold medal.

"The Olympics were the biggest goal of mine this year," Ko said Monday.

"If I end up holding the gold medal and standing upon the podium, it will be extra special.

"I don't know if I will ever take that medal off. It will bruise me when I swing with it." The 19-year-old from New Zealand figures to be among the top contenders when the second Olympic women's golf tournament begins Wednesday at the same Rio course where Britain's Justin Rose captured the men's gold medal Sunday.

Ko played five holes of the layout while Rose was holding off Sweden's Henrik Stenson for the title and later had her photo taken with Rose and his gold medal.

"To be able to take a photo with the gold medal was special," Ko said. "Hopefully some of the vibes came off." Ko, born in Seoul, moved from South Korea as a baby and became a New Zealand citizen at age 12.

She won her first major title at last year's Evian Championship and her second in April at the ANA Inspiration, one of five titles Ko has won this year.

She is trying to focus on what reaching the podium would mean for her rather than any pressure associated with being world number one at the Olympics.

"If we end up holding a medal, I think that's going to be special," she said. "That's what I think about rather than the pressure on me." Ko was not worried about following the men on the Olympic course, certain their divots would not be in her landing zones.

"I'm pretty sure I'm not going to hit a 9-iron the same place Bubba Watson hits a 9-iron," Ko said.


"I don't think that's going to be a worry. It's pretty firm out there." Ko visited the Olympic Village when she arrived on Saturday but is not staying there.

"Just to be in that area and meet some of the other athletes, it has been great and it's only going to get better every day," she said.

"It's amazing. I would have never imagined myself to be in this position." Ko had been concerned about too much time in Rio so she skipped the opening ceremony.

"I thought it might be a bit too much time," she said.

"I would like to have spent more time in the village and with the athletes in general, learn about their sports." She watched New Zealand shot putter Val Adams settle for silver as she tried for a third consecutive Olympic crown and attended swimming as well.

"It got me more excited and more motivated to be here," Ko said.

Ko thinks her time in wind-swept courses with few trees back home will serve her well in similar Olympic conditions.

"When the wind gets up it will be like a British Open," Ko said. "The person who can make those creative shots will do well." Ko was warned that unaware fans might try to pick up her golf ball if she hits it into the crowd.

"No one has picked up my ball yet," Ko said. "I have had a dog run away with my ball and I got penalised. But I still love dogs."