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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Explained: How Aditi Ashok missed out on a Golf Tokyo Olympic medal

Indian golfer Aditi Ashok had to suffer disappointment when she finished outside the medal bracket after 72 holes of the women's individual event by just one shot. Who is she, and how did she miss out on a Tokyo Olympic medal?

Written by Tushar Bhaduri , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: August 13, 2021 2:55:25 pm
Aditi Ashok plays a shot from a bunker on the 7th hole during the final round of the women's golf event at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021, at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Kawagoe, Japan. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

After being in second position for almost the whole duration of the tournament and raising hopes of an unexpected podium place, Indian golfer Aditi Ashok had to suffer disappointment when she finished outside the medal bracket after 72 holes of the women’s individual event by just one shot.

Nevertheless, it was a hugely creditable performance by the 23-year-old, who matched some of the best players in the world on such a big stage under intense pressure. In fact, there was some speculation that the tournament could be decided after 54 holes due to inclement weather. In that case, Aditi would be coming home with a silver medal.

Who is Aditi Ashok?

The Bengaluru native is currently the 200th-ranked woman golfer in the world. She plays on the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the LPGA Tour in the United States. She featured at the 2016 Rio Olympics as well, finishing 41st. Aditi has three LET titles to her name and two on the Indian circuit, both of which she won as an amateur.

She is the first Indian to play and win on the LET and finished second on the European circuit in 2016, also clinching the Rookie of the Year honour. She has been recording high finishes on the tough LPGA Tour as well, but a maiden win has eluded her so far.

How did Aditi Ashok make it to the Tokyo Olympics?

Though the Tokyo Olympics field was limited to 60 players, it was not totally based on world rankings. The aim was to get players from as many countries as possible to show the broad-based and global popularity of golf. The top nations — such as the United States and Korea — could only send a limited number of their top players so many of the big names missed out, with some even choosing to give the Olympics a miss.

Aditi was placed 45th in the list of players eligible for the Games. The only other Indian in the field was Diksha Dagar, who finished tied 50th after four rounds.

The men’s tournament, which was held earlier during the Olympics, had two Indian participants in Anirban Lahiri (tied 42nd) and Udayan Mane (56th).

Aditi Ashok, 23, is from Bengaluru. (Reuters Photo: Murad Sezer)

How did Aditi miss out on a medal?

Golf is a game of fine margins. Very often, inches are the difference between a putt dropping into a hole or just lipping out. Aditi was fighting for a podium place against some of the best players in the world. Eventual gold medallist, Nelly Korda of the United States, who led almost from start to finish, is the world no. 1 and a Major winner. Silver medallist Inami Mone is ranked 28th while New Zealand’s bronze medallist Lydia Ko is ranked 11th. It must be emphasised that in such an elite company, Aditi didn’t choke or falter. It’s the top players who raised their games to claim their medals.

Aditi dropped just five shots over the four days but if one has to be super-critical, four of them came in the final two rounds. With rounds of 67, 66, 68 and 68, the Indian was consistent throughout. What may have worked against her was her inability to make any birdies over the final four holes on Saturday. In comparison, Mone and Ko each had two birdies and a bogey over that stretch. The one shot gained proved decisive in Aditi being edged out of the playoff to decide second and third places.

Aditi Ashok speaks with her caddie, her mother, at the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo: Andy Wong)

Did Aditi’s game betray her on the final stretch?

By her own admission, driving off the tee is not Aditi’s biggest strength. She is an excellent putter and displayed this prowess throughout the competition. She was frequently missing fairways on Saturday, which made it difficult for her to get her approach shots close to the hole. She scrambled well for the most part, but with Mone and Ko shooting 65s in the final round, Aditi’s 68 fell short of what was required.

In the final analysis, if something will give her sleepless nights, it’s the missed putt on the 17th hole. In her estimation, she hit a perfect putt and was expecting it to drop, but maybe the golfing gods were not on her side on that one. She had an outside chance of a birdie from 25 feet on the last hole, and gave it a go, but it wasn’t meant to be.

How will Aditi’s performance impact the bigger picture in Indian golf?

The Olympics is the biggest stage in the sporting world and many people, who may not be interested in or understand the intricacies of golf, would have been following Aditi’s progress as there was a chance of a medal. Though she missed out, it could increase interest in India and show the wider world that India can also produce quality woman golfers.

Indian male golfers have made their presence felt on the international tours off and on, and Aditi’s achievement will show that the sport has a wide base in the country across both genders.

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