Tokyo 2020

Japan’s Inami just wants to have fun in medal chase

Mone Inami of Japan
SAITAMA, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Mone Inami of Japan plays a tee shot on the 16th hole during the third round of the WomenÕs Individual Stroke Play event on Day 17 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at the Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 6, 2021 in Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR/IGF)

All week, Japan’s Mone Inami simply headed out to the first tee to “have fun” in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 women’s golf competition.

Come Saturday, the 22-year-old rising star gets a chance to win a first ever medal in the sport for host nation Japan at Kasumigaseki Country Club, some six days after Hideki Matsumaya came agonisingly close to a bronze medal in the men’s competition.

Inami, a seven-time winner on the Japan LPGA Tour, added a third round of 3-under 68 to her 70 and 65 in the previous two days to share third place with Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark, Australian Hannah Green and New Zealander Lydia Ko on 10-under 203.

World No. 1 Nelly Korda of the United States leads on 15-under in the race for gold, with India’s Aditi Ashok in solo second on 12-under with 18 holes remaining on Saturday. The final round tee times will begin from 6:30am to 8:23am (local Tokyo time), with officials sending players to the course an hour earlier than third-round play to get out in front of potential bad weather.

“For the past three days I've had a lot of fun and also at the same time I've been able to shoot low rounds, so I would like to continue that tomorrow and have a good time,” said Inami, who made five birdies and two bogeys including a dropped shot on the last hole.

“I had a lot of fun today. The only thing was on the final hole I misread the putt which caused a bogey. But otherwise I had a really good day.”

Inami hopes she can deliver a medal for Japan, saying Matsuyama wished the women’s team the best after he narrowly lost in a seven-man playoff for the bronze which was won by Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan.

“I spoke to him briefly on the day he was leaving Tokyo, I was actually arriving to the city, and he said that because he wasn't able to win the medal on the men's side, he wished us good luck,” said Inami.

Despite the weight of a golf-mad nation resting on her shoulders, there wasn’t any hint that Inami is feeling any pressure in trying to deliver a medal for the host nation.

“The Olympics itself is very fun. I love the atmosphere of the Olympics, the field is great. Not sure exactly which factor to point out which is leading to my feeling of having fun, but it's a very unique tournament, so I want to play with no regret. I think being nervous or being tight doesn't do you anything, so I just want to focus on having fun,” she said.

“I think what really was good for me today was that there wasn't anything that was very poor. Even when I mishit some of the tee shots I think the error was minimal and I was able to hit a lot of fairways. I managed to avoid a lot of rough.”

With a tight leaderboard, Inami is prepared for a close race to the podium, including being involved in a playoff which she holds a 3-0 playoff record on the domestic circuit. “I don't usually get nervous and it's the same for this event,” she said confidently. “It feels like a dream stage. It's actually really fun for me to contend, so I want to focus on that tomorrow."

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