Like most professional tournaments, the Olympics golf event is decided by the lowest score after four rounds consisting of 72 total holes.
On the women’s side in Tokyo, however, inclement weather has a chance to trim this summer’s tournament to 54 holes — and the final medal results may already have been decided.
Rain is in the forecast for Saturday, the day for which the fourth and final round of 18 is scheduled, as a tropical storm makes its way to the area. While Olympic officials are aiming to get all the players off the tee and through the course to complete a full tournament, it will not entirely be in their control.
If the weather forces a stoppage, or prevents anyone from teeing off at all Saturday morning — the start time was moved up to allow the first players to begin at 6:30 a.m. in Japan — play could also be delayed until Sunday, according to a memo the International Golf Federation delivered to golfers before the third round. That round was delayed due to extremely high temperatures.
The forecast calls for rain throughout the weekend, however, and since play can’t continue after Sunday night’s Closing Ceremony, a cancellation both days would mean medals and rankings will be assessed based on the existing 54-hole scores.
After three rounds, America’s Nelly Korda – the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world — has posted a 15-under, good for a three-stroke lead over India’s Aditi Ashok, a rising star in the game. A complete cancellation of weekend play would result in Korda winning the gold medal and Ashok the silver.
The third spot on the podium would be more complicated, however, since four players are currently tied at 10-under: Australia’s Lydia Ko and Hannah Green, Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pedersen and Japan’s Mone Inami.
Guidelines from the IGF dictate that an Olympic tie for one or more of the top three spots be decided by a playoff, or multiple playoffs, as needed, according to golf.com. “Such playoffs shall be on a hole-by-hole basis immediately following the conclusion of the final round,” the rules read.
It is not clear what will happen if a playoff could not be conducted, but often in the Olympics multiple bronze medals are awarded in the event of a tie at third place.
Ko, one of those in the third-place tie at -10, is especially hopeful the weather holds out.
“I don’t know what the weather is going to be like tomorrow, but I really, really, really hope we get to play,” she told NBC on Friday.
While the first golfers are scheduled to tee off around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, the leading group with Korda and Ashok will begin at 8:18 a.m. — barring weather delays, of course.