Lydia Ko has high hopes of winning the first women’s Olympic golf title in 116 years.
“The Olympics were the biggest goal of mine this year. If I end up holding the gold medal and standing upon the podium, it will be extra special,” said the top-ranked teen. “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 will be among the top contenders when the second Olympic women’s golf tournament begins at the same Rio course where Britain’s Justin Rose won the men’s gold medal on 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 [winning] 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.
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.
“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 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 didn’t attend the opening ceremony.
“I thought it might be a bit too much time,” she added. “I would like to have spent more time in the village and with the athletes in general.”
She watched New Zealand shot putter Val Adams settle for silver as she tried for a third 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.”