Reto, Ko on the rampage in Rio
Paula Reto could tick the biggest box of all when she starts today’s final round in the Women’s Golf Competition at the Olympic Games as a definite medal contender in Rio de Janeiro.
The diminutive Capetonian thought she already realised her biggest goals when she led Team South Africa with her opening shot s on Wednesday, but while the pacesetters faltered in the windy conditions on Friday, Reto made the most of moving day at the Olympic Course.
She rocketed from a tie for eighth into the top 10 courtesy of an outstanding three-under-par 68 and – with 18 holes to play – the former Purdue University standout has given herself a really good chance to medal.
The 26-year-old petite brunette will start the final 18 holes at joint eighth on four-under-par 209 and she doesn’t feel she’s done her best yet in Rio.
“It was really nice out there today,” said Reto after round three.
“The last couple of holes were really windy but I just stuck to what I had to do. It was quite a big adjustment to find the right clubs coming home, because there wasn’t much wind in the first part of the round. I took a lot of extra club down the last couple of holes and kept it going.
“I just stuck to some of the things that has been working well for me at this course. I stayed patient and I tried to swing free in the wind. I’m really pleased with the progress, but I feel I can do better, so I’m heading out to work on a few things. Mostly putting, until it becomes natural.”
Reto’s round didn’t get off to a great start with a bogey at the second hole, but she reversed the dropped shot at the next hole and birdied five and eight to turn two under.
She picked up another gain at 15 before dropping a shot at 17 and signed off with the fifth birdie of the day to finish in some heady company.
Reto shares the stage with world number three Brooke Henderson from Canada, three-time Major winner Suzanne Petteren from Norway, two-time LPGA Tour winner Minjee Lee from Australia and er compatriot Ladies European Tour champion Su Oh, as well as six-time LPGA Tour winner Anna Nordqvist from Sweden and American medal hope, two-time Major champion Stacy Lewis.
Compatriot Ashleigh Simon made a solid start with a run of nine successive pars, but a nightmare back nine saw her end eight over par for the tournament.
Before ending the rounds with a double bogey at 18, Simon had three successive drops after the turn and surrounded a lone birdie at 16 with two more bogeys to sign for a six over 77.
“I hit a lot of really good shots on the front nine, but just couldn’t convert,” Simon said. “The wind picked up a lot of the back nine and I just let my frustrations get the better of me. I had a couple of three putts and missed a four-footer at the 11th after a great recovery shot.
“Mr Player helped me after the round with the putting stroke, and hopefully it will pay off and I can make a comeback for South Africa today.”
A hole-in-one turned out to be a good omen for gold medallist Justin Rose from Great Britain in the Men’s Competition. An ace at the par-three eighth it could prove the same for the reigning world number one Lydia Ko.
The favourite to win a gold medal before the women took the course on Wednesday, New Zealand’s Ko had been scuffling a long way from the top before Friday’s third round began. She followed the hole-in-one with a birdie on the ninth – her fourth of the day. She parred her way home in the stiff breeze for a six-under-par 65 that saw her roar into a share of second at nine under with American Gerina Piller, who posted a 68. The pair are shots back from former world number one Inbee Park from South Korea, who returned a 70.
The trio will be in the last group away on the final day with tee times brought forward because of the threat of bad weather in the afternoon.
“First hole in one in my whole entire life,” said the 19-year-old Ko.
“I haven’t been very lucky with hole in ones. At KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June, one went in the hole and came out, one hit the stick and came out. I didn’t really expect it to go in, but when it finally dropped, I thought I was going to cry… almost.”
Written and released by Lali Stander on behalf of the South African Golf Association, WGSA, the Sunshine Ladies Tour and WPGA.