What we learned: Golf wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

From a Nelly Korda/Xander Schauffele USA double to a seven-man playoff for bronze, golf lit up the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Take a look at the top moments, get highlights, replays, and what to look forward to at Paris 2024.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Golf was back on the Olympic schedule at Rio 2016 for the first time in 112 years, and we got a first ever Olympic hole-in-one by Justin Rose who also took home gold.

Golfers at Tokyo 2020 had a lot to live up to, and did so in style, Nelly Korda and Xander Schauffele topped the women's and men's podiums on proud days for Team USA.

22-year-old INAMI Mone flew the flag for the hosts and South-African born Rory Sabbatini claimed silver under the Slovakian flag.

Then there was that unprecedented seven-way battle for bronze in the men's event that included Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, MATSUYAMA Hideki, and Chinese Tapei's CT Pan.

Read on for golf’s Top 5 moments at the Tokyo 2020 Games, where you can watch highlights and replays, and look ahead to Paris 2024.

1. Nelly Korda: Summer lovin' happened so fast

What an unforgettable summer it was for 23-year-old Nelly Korda.

In June she won her maiden major at the Women’s PGA Championship in Atlanta before jumping on a jet to claim Olympic gold in Tokyo in August as World No.1.

“Honestly, it's crazy,” she said. “I've always been super determined and super focused on what I want.”

What she wanted was gold and she got it with a commanding display of calm and maturity way beyond her years.

Two double bogeys threatened to derail her gold medal dream but on the final day she went from a double bogey on the seventh to three straight birdies, pulling away from home hope INAMI Mone and New Zealand’s Lydia Ko.

Inami and Ko finished with silver and bronze, and the New Zealander had nothing but kind words for the American champion.

“It's not easy playing as the No. 1 in the Olympics. I did that in Rio,” Ko – the Rio silver medallist - said.

"And for her to fight through those kind of pressure and expectations and to end up winning the gold, I think it shows what kind of class player she is.

“I'm sure this is the start of many more majors and many more wins for Nelly.”

2. Inami’s silver gets golf-crazy Japan on its feet

Golf is one of the most popular sports in Japan and all hopes rested on Inami’s shoulders after Matsuyama didn’t manage to make the podium a week earlier.

It was a lot to ask of the 22-year-old and the nation was already celebrating as she went into a sudden-death playoff against Lydia Ko to see who would take silver and bronze behind Korda, with a medal guaranteed.

Both players shot 6-under 65s and were tied for second on 16-under after 72 holes at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama Prefecture.

And Inami could hardly believe it when Ko missed her putt for par on the first playoff hole. A silver as good as gold for the watching Japanese public.

"The Olympics have always been a dream of mine, and I'm glad I was able to keep it from becoming a nightmare. I didn't imagine any of this. It's a miracle I even qualified," she said.

Mone Inami of Team Japan celebrates her Tokyo 2020 Olympics silver medal at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 07, 2021 in Kawagoe, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

3. Xander Schauffele did it for dad

The men’s competition was another nail-biter as it all came down to a Schauffele-Rory Sabbatini showdown.

The U.S. big hitter looked like h had ice in his veins to sink two key putts and clinch gold, the last one a real cliff-hanger.

“I just reminded myself, this is just a 4-footer,” he said. “All you have to do is make it. No big deal.”

Calm on the exterior, heart pounding and mind racing inside, he still managed to find the hole.

“I was trying so hard to just stay calm,” he revealed. “But man, it was stressful. And I made that putt and it was just a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Schauffele shared that he was doing it for his dad, whose own Olympic aspirations were ended when he was hit by a drunk driver and left blinded in one eye.

“For me, I really wanted to win for my dad,” Xander said, “I am sure he is crying somewhere right now. I kind of wanted this one more than any other.”

4. Why did Rory Sabbatini play for Slovakia?

Born in Durban, South Africa, in 1976, why was Rory Sabbatini playing under the Slovak flag?

Sabbatini's wife Martina comes from Slovakia and he became a Slovakian citizen towards the end of 2018. His wife has a cousin in the Slovak Golf Federation and she caddied for him at Tokyo 2020.

“Her cousin came up with the idea,” Sabbatini said. “This is an opportunity to bring more kids into the game of golf, because they really haven’t had an exposure on an international stage to really have someone to follow. They have a lot of hockey players, skiers, tennis players, all sports. But nobody in golf.”

Sabbatini's got game: He has six wins on the PGA Tour, has played in the Presidents Cup and once reached as high as No. 8 in the world.

And he was pretty good in Tokyo too, losing out on gold by a single shot.

His silver helped Slovakia to a four-medal haul including a gold in women’s trap, another silver in men’s kayak, and bronze in canoe.

5. Men’s bronze medal playoff: Tee party

Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey, MATSUYAMA Hideki, CT Pan, Collin Morikawa, Mito Pereira, Sebastian Muñoz.

Seven different players with seven different nationalities were tied on -15 under in third place after four days of golf and it meant a play-off for bronze.

Never had it happened before and they had to be split into two groups.

Quickly they fell away, Casey drove into the trees, Matsuyama hit another one awry as Japanese golf fans could hardly watch, then Morikawa hit the flag as the drama dialled up.

"I’ve never tried so hard in my life to finish in third place,” McIlroy said afterwards, as he dropped out of the reckoning with Pereira and Muñoz.

Only Pan and Morikawa were left, and when the American's par putt rolled by the 18th hole - the fourth play-off hole - the bronze belonged to Pan, who turned and embraced his wife and caddie LIN Yingchun.

There was a lot of love on and off the green for golf at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

C.T. Pan of Team Chinese Taipei celebrates with his wife and caddie Yingchun Lin after making his putt to win Olympic bronze at Kasumigaseki Country Club on August 01, 2021 in Kawagoe, Saitama, Japan. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

One last look

120 golfers from over 40 different countries took to the course at the Kasumigaseki Country Club and gave an Olympic exhibition worthy of the greatest sporting stage on the planet.

New Zealand's Lydia Ko became the first golfer ever to win two medals at two different Olympic Games and Sabbatini shot an Olympic record 61.

All the drama, passion and emotion that golf has to give is here to stay and next up is Paris 2024.

Golf at the Paris 2024 Olympics

It's only three years from the next summer spectacle in France and Tokyo has whetted the appetite of many golfers.

Rory McIlroy's bronze medal chase has given him a taste and he wants more:

"I certainly didn't expect to feel the way I did when I was there, but it was great. It was a great experience. I had a wonderful time," McIlroy said after enjoying the few days playing with his Irish teammate Shane Lowry.

“It makes me even more determined going to Paris and trying to pick one (medal) up," he said after that incredible playoff.

McIlroy won't be the only one looking forward to it: She's 23 now, but could Nelly Korda become the first golfer to defend an Olympic title; is Schauffele going for a repeat at Paris?

Whatever happens, we'll see the greatest in the game face off in the French capital at more unforgettable Olympic golf competitions.


The highlights and replays of the Tokyo 2020 golf events are available here on demand: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

Golf results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: All the medallists

Men's individual strokeplay

Gold: Xander Schauffele (USA)

Silver: Rory Sabbatini (SVK)

Bronze: PAN C T (TPE)

Women's individual strokeplay

Gold: Nelly Korda (USA)

Silver: INAMI Mone (JPN)

Bronze: Lydia Ko (NZL)