Hole-in-one fuels charge by top-ranked Lydia Ko

New Zealand superstar scores an ace on the front nine to climb up the leaderboard in the third round of the Rio tournament

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 11:43pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2016, 8:50am

World number one Lydia Ko hit a hole-in-one during a blistering front nine on Friday to charge up the leaderboard in the third round of the Rio Olympics golf tournament.

The 19-year-old New Zealander began the day seven strokes behind 36-hole leader Park In-bee of South Korea.

But she shot a six-under-par front nine on Friday that included an ace on the 140-yard (128-m) par-3 eighth hole.

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She nearly had a second consecutive eagle on the par-four ninth, when her approach shot landed beyond the pin but spun back and nearly dropped in.

She rolled in the resulting short putt for birdie, her fourth of the day, to make the turn at nine-under for the competition, which is being held for the first time in 116 years.

Park, who teed off later, was at 12-under after she birdied two of her first three holes.

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The tournament in Rio follows a men’s event that concluded on Sunday with Britain’s Justin Rose winning the first Olympic gold medal since 1904 in an exciting duel with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.

Rose also made the first hole-in-one in Olympic history on day one, hitting hit tee shot at the par-three fourth hole 188 yards into the cup.

More than 20 men’s stars including the four highest-ranked players declined to play in golf’s return to the Olympics, citing reasons ranging from the Zika virus to scheduling issues.

The women’s event, however, is being contested by the top players in the world.

It is the first since American Margaret Abbott won a nine-hole event at the Paris Games in 1900.