Aditi Ashok came within touching distance of a historic Olympic medal but ended up a hugely creditable fourth. After missing birdie opportunities narrowly on the last two holes, she finished two strokes from gold-medal winner Nelly Korda.
Ranked 200 in the world, Aditi gave her higher-ranked and more celebrated opponents, Korda and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko, a run for their money.
The 23-year-old Indian, the ultimate underdog in the playing field, began the day at the second spot and remained in contention until the very end.
With her mother on the bag, Aditi birdied the par-5 fifth and was tied for the lead with Korda and Ko after the latter double bogeyed the seventh hole.
Aditi’s bogey in the 11th saw her slip to the second spot, which she shared with Ko and Japan’s Mone Inami, who went on to win the silver.
The Indian golfer remained unfazed throughout, even when the sun shone bright, and the skies opened up. While Korda and Ko chatted with each other, Aditi, the youngest of the three, remained in her zone and spoke little. When she did, it was a courtesy chat with her mother and nothing beyond.
Aditi made notes and made up her mind before each stroke while the other two sought advice from their caddies. Nelly and Ko, good friends off the course, were talking about their experience in the village and about their outfits ahead of the 15th, while Aditi stuck to her thoughts.
Her standing kept shuffling a spot or two and she dropped to the fourth spot after her approach shot on the 14th hole found the bunker. She was back to tied third shortly after as Ko bogeyed the 16th. The players had to rush indoors as play was halted due to an incoming thunderstorm. While the storm was anything but thunderous, the break of play seemed to have robbed Aditi of her momentum.
The Bangalore girl missed a birdie on the 17th and went back to the fourth position and she had a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th that missed the hole by a whisker and saw her miss out on podium finish by one shot.
“I think I didn’t drive the ball very good today and then it’s hard to get birdie putts or hit greens when you're not in the fairway. That was the hardest part to make a score today,” she said.
Asked about the putt on 17 and the 18th hole, she said: “Yeah, 17 was perfect. I hit it exactly at the speed I wanted, the line I wanted, I just -- maybe I made too many through the four rounds, golfing gods were like, okay, we're not going to give her this one. I just tried my best, even the last hole, although it was really out of range, it was almost a long putt, but I still tried to give it a chance. I think I gave it my best attempt,” she added.
Aditi missed the medal failing to make the medal-playoff but made a strong impact. She repeated her card of three-under 68. In other words, Aditi did what was expected of her, but Mone and Ko – with of 65 –raised the bar on the final day to more than make up the two-stroke gap they had from Aditi.
The scores: 267 Nelly Korda USA (67-62-69-69); 268 Mone Inami Japan (70-65-68-65); 268 Lydia K New Zealand (70-67-66-65); 269 Aditi Ashok India (67-66-68-68); 271 Hannah Green Australia (71-65-67-68).