By Yoo Jee-ho
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug, 20 (Yonhap) -- It was only last month that South Korean LPGA star Park In-bee decided to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, despite nagging left thumb issues that had given her reservations for weeks.
Turn the clock to Saturday, and Park is surely glad she made the call.
The world No. 5 was crowned the first Olympic women's golf champion in 116 years, with a comfortable five-shot victory over the world No. 1 Lydia Ko.
Park shot a five-under 66 in the final round to finish her four days at Olympic Golf Course at 15-under. The tournament was essentially over at the turn, with Park five strokes clear of the field. Feng Shanshan of China got to within three before falling back by five again to the South Korean, and Feng was later overtaken in second place by Ko, who birdied two of her final three holes.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding her status leading up to the Olympics, Park has been saying all week how grateful she was just to be in Rio. She repeated again and again that she never expected much of a result, and if she ended up shooting a good score, it would simply be a bonus.
And what a bonus she had.
Park In-bee of South Korea salutes the crowd after scoring a birdie at the 13th hole during the final round of the Rio de Janeiro Olympic women's golf tournament on Aug. 20, 2016. (Yonhap)
Park hasn't played on the LPGA Tour since early June and she also skipped the International Crown, a match play competition, last month. She missed the cut at a Korean tour event just before the Olympics, which further dampened expectations that weren't all that high in the first place.
Park, however, meant business, shooting back-to-back 66s to take the halfway lead. Despite an up-and-down 70 on Friday, Park still took a two-stroke lead into the final round.
She played steady golf even in windy conditions, and the putter stayed hot from start to finish.
The Olympic title is the latest piece of jewelry on Park's already-glittering mantelpiece. The LPGA Hall of Famer Park completed her career grand slam last year by winning her fourth different major at the Ricoh Women's British Open.
This was Park's first win anywhere since November, and it may also give her some much-needed boost for the remainder of the LPGA season.
Her thumb, however, remains a question mark. After her second round on Thursday, Park said she would visit a hospital after the Olympics to see if she'd be healthy enough to keep playing the rest of the season.