RIO DE JANEIRO – There was a time on Saturday when it looked like Americans could occupy two spots on the Olympic podium. They ended up occupying none.
After an opening-round 68 Lexi Thompson was a non-factor, even though she did shoot 66 in the final round and tied for 18th place. Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller were the best hopes for the red, white and blue.
Piller was in the last group with ultimate winner Inbee Park and silver medalist Lydia Ko and began the day only two shots behind. She got off to a shaky start with bogeys on the first two holes but steadied the ship with birdies on two of the next three holes. A seven-hole stretch where Piller made three bogeys set her back so far that even the bronze medal was out of reach. She shot 74 and tied for 11th place.
“I didn’t even think I had a chance to be here, so to come and to be in contention is all I can really ask for,” Piller said. “Just going to learn from it and move on.”
Piller wasn’t even on the U.S. team until an eighth-place tie at the U.S. Women’s Open last month vaulted her into the top 15 in the world ranking.
Lewis entered the Olympics with low expectations because, even though she played six events in a row at one point this summer, she took the last two weeks off to get married. Her preparation was not typical. But a second-round 63 where she seemingly made every putt she looked at, gave her a chance at victory.
The third round finish will be something Lewis thinks about for a long time, especially a double bogey on the last hole that resulted in a 5-over 76.
On a windy Saturday Lewis went out with nothing to lose and started to get hot with the putter again. Birdies on 16 and 17 gave her an outside shot at a bronze medal, and a birdie at the last would’ve got her into a playoff for third place, but she left her putt inches short of the cup. She shot 66 and tied for fourth place, one shot behind the bronze-medal position.
“You’ve got 60 players in the field and only three can be on the podium,” Lewis said. “It was going to be hard to get there anyway. You’ve got all the top players in the world here. You’re going to have to play some great golf to get up there on the podium.”