Rio 2016: Ariya Jutanugarn leads after the first round of women's golf

Rio 2016: Ariya Jutanugarn leads after the first round of women's golf

World number one Inbee Park is one shot back with several contenders not far behind.

john-lupo
John Lupo

An opening round 65 has given Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn the 18-hole lead at the Rio Olympics golf tournament. Jutanugarn registered seven birdies and an eagle on the par-5 fifth. Inbee Park shot a bogey-free 66 and is one shot back. Notable scores include a 67 by Candie Kung, 68's by American Lexi Thompson and Englishwoman Charley Hull and 69 shot by Lydia Ko and Gerina Piller. In total, 25 players shot under par on a hot, blustery day. 

Lewis recognizes importance of event to the women's game going forward

For Stacey Lewis, she understands the impact of this opportunity for the sport. "This is an extremely important week for us," said Lewis, who is in 19th place after a 70. "I grew up probably watching the Olympics more than I watched golf even. To be a part of this is a big deal. The way we play golf is different. Once people experience it and they see it, that's when they come back. So the more eyeballs we can get on us, the better. We're constantly fighting for network TV, and that's one huge part of this week is the coverage that we get, it's beyond anything I think we could do just as a tour. We can kind of piggyback the Olympics and hopefully grow our tour and grow women's golf."

Stacy Lewis hits a tee shot off of the third hole during the first round of the Olympic golf tournament/Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Stacy Lewis hits a tee shot off of the third hole during the first round of the Olympic golf tournament/Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Park, meanwhile, was reflective on her round as she continues to battle a thumb injury: "I had a really good ball‑striking day," she said. "I had a lot of opportunities and there was probably two or three more putts that I possible could have made."

Inbee Park watches her tee shot from the 16th hole during the first round of the women's golf tournament in Rio/Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
Inbee Park watches her tee shot from the 16th hole during the first round of the women's golf tournament in Rio/Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images

She also spoke about the media attention her and her countrywomen were getting: "Well, I think being a Korean women's golfer, I think we always have that kind of pressure on our shoulders," she said. The burden she feels is internal. Park was married in late 2014 and is eager to have children. Competing in Tokyo, in 2020, is far from a sure thing for her. And so the winner of seven major championships has been swept up in Olympic fever, like every other golfer. Of the opportunity to be a part of the Games, she said, "It's a huge honor, and it could be the highlight of my golfing career."

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