Korda leads as Meadow & Maguire make gains in Tokyo

John Shortt
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Korda leads as Meadow & Maguire make gains in Tokyo

Stephanie Meadow at the Kasumigaseki Country Club during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

American Nelly Korda fired a nine-under par round of 62 to hold a comfortable four shot lead on 13-under par in Tokyo ahead of three players – Aditi Ashok (India), Nicole Koerstz-Madsen (Denmark) and Emily Kristine Pedersen (Denmark) who share second place on nine-under par.

For Team Ireland, Stephanie Meadow was first to take to the course this morning, starting on one-over par after an opening 72 yesterday. Meadow was two-under for her last three holes on day one and reached the back nine today on two-under par for her round and one-under total. A bogey on the par-3 tenth was followed by birdies on the 14th, 15th, 16th and 18th as she raced to the clubhouse in 66; Meadow tied for 11th alongside her compatriot Leona Maguire and just five shots out side the medal places at the halfway stage in Japan.

“I just kind of managed it a bit better today I think,” said Meadow. “I still didn’t have my best stuff but I gave myself a little bit more room on left pins and didn’t short side myself so that was really the key and is always part of shooting under par. I didn’t have that much confidence in my irons but I knew what I had to do to get it close.”

Meadow has made strong gains on the last few holes each day and she’ll be hoping to bring that form to the early part of her round tomorrow.

“I guess I hope I can start like that tomorrow. There’s a lot of wedges on the last few, they’re easy-ish holes and they moved the tee on 18 up today so all of those things contribute but I finally got comfortable, hit good shots and started to see it a bit better.”

The heat is still a factor, with tournament organisers implementing additional heat mitigation measures including provision of umbrellas on the first tee and roving carts providing ice and cooling towels to players, caddies and officials. Meanwhile, we’re still waiting on a decision regarding reducing the tournament to 54 holes.

“I feel like maybe today wasn’t quite as bad as yesterday,” said Meadow. “But I did tee off two hours earlier so maybe that was it, or maybe we’re just getting used to it. But it was still pretty hot.

“Physically you get tired and mentally too you make some silly mistakes, you’re not quite thinking things through because you’re trying to stay hydrated but that’s where a good caddy comes in and they can keep their mind sharp as well.”

Leona Maguire meanwhile finished with a four-under 67 to move alongside Meadow and she felt her efforts today were much better than her first round.

“I felt like I played a lot better today and gave myself a lot more chances. I didn’t get off to the best of starts,” said Maguire.

“I chipped in on four and that kind of trended it for me and I had three birdies in a row on 6, 7 and 8 which was nice. I just felt I played quite solid today, there were a few putts that had they gone in would have completely changed the day but it was nice to finish with a birdie on 18 on that tough pin.”

The scoring has matched the weather today with Korda the outstanding protagonist with a nine-under par round but there were plenty of low scores in evidence.

“They’ve moved up a couple of tees today and I think that’s why we’ve seen some lower scores. I’m not quite sure what course Nelly is playing but she’s obviously got it going and that’s the target now, to get as close to her as possible,” commented Maguire.

With a chance that the tournament could still be reduced to 54 holes due to the heat it must be unsettling for the players to not know what they have to do but Maguire is taking it in her stride.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen but hopefully it will be 72 holes and we get as much golf in as we possibly can. If it is cut down then it will be a sprint to the end and we’ll try to go as low as possible tomorrow and if that’s it, then that’s it.

With Kellie Harrington after just winning her boxing bout to make the final, Maguire was asked about what that means to her and to Ireland.

“What Kellie is doing is incredible and she was one of the first people I met when I got to the (Olympic) village and I’d love to see her win a gold medal. She’s worked so hard and I think her attitude has been phenomenal. There’s a lot of people that could learn an awful lot from Kellie and she’s inspiring a lot of people back home. It’s great to see all the people in her community rallying around her and I’m fortunate where I’m from as it’s the same.”

Maguire and Meadow will play together in round three, no doubt hoping to bounce off each other as they go in pursuit of a precious Olympic medal.

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