By Yoo Jee-ho
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 20 (Yonhap) -- A highly-anticipated duel for the women's Olympic gold medal fizzled before it began on Saturday.
South Korean Park In-bee, world No. 5, opened the final round at 11-under, holding a two-stroke lead over the top-ranked Kiwi, Lydia Ko. Though American Gerina Piller was also at nine-under, the final round was largely expected to be the battle between the two stars who've been battling for LPGA supremacy in recent years.
It didn't turn out to be much of a battle, as Park cruised to a five-stroke victory over Ko at 16-under thanks to a round of five-under 66, while Ko, struggling on greens all day, only carded a 69.
The two players parred the opening hole, but Ko found trouble with her second shot at the par-4 second. Her approach went long and left into a sandy area with bushes, and she had to take a drop with a one-stroke penalty.
Ko bogeyed the hole, while Park walked away with a par to take a three-shot lead.
Ko's putter deserted her starting at the third. Her birdie attempt from 15 feet out came inches short of the cup. Park made hers from 10 feet to open up a four-stroke lead.
South Korea's Park In-bee (L) and New Zealand's Lydia Ko walk down the fairway during the final round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic women's golf tournament on Aug. 20, 2016. (Yonhap)
Park also birdied the next hole. Then at the par-5 fifth, Park laid up and put her third shot to about 26 feet. She drained that one to reach 14-under.
Ko, whose third shot went 12 feet past the pin, missed hers again.
The Kiwi finally picked up her first birdie at the seventh, but missed another opportunity at the eighth. Park stiffed her second shot to about four feet and got to 15-under, now six shots better than Ko.
Ko couldn't make a 10-footer for birdie at the ninth and again at the 10th. Park made the turn at 15-under and was in cruise control by then.
Ko wasn't even the closest pursuer by this point, as Feng Shanshan of China made a run that ultimately proved futile.
Ko made three birdies on the back nine but they weren't nearly enough to overtake the red-hot South Korean.