KAWAGOE, Japan – By the end of the first round of the women’s Olympic golf tournament, No. 1-ranked golfer in the world Nelly Korda was bored of drinking water.
A toasty day with the heat index climbing to 111 degrees on the course at Kasumigaseki Country Club called for nearly a bottle per hole. Chug after chug, Korda was ready for some flavor variety, but she knew hydration was critical to her success at her first Olympic Games.
“I think the mental aspect is probably the hardest just because you have to keep yourself hydrated and you kind of lose it a little out there,” Korda said. “When I was teeing up some balls, I definitely felt a little lightheaded. But kept myself in it and made sure I drank a lot of electrolytes, too.”
The heat couldn’t defeat Korda, who shot 4-under 67 and was tied for second after 18 holes. After opening her round with two bogeys in the first four holes, she rebounded with back-to-back birdies on her next two.
She finished with six birdies over the par-71 course. Heading into the second round, Korda and India's Aditi Ashok trail Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom by one stroke.
Despite her strong start, Korda knows she has kinks to work out before play resumes.
“I kinda sprayed some shots out to the right of my last two holes with my irons, but you're gonna have that,” Korda said. “You're gonna lose a little bit of concentration. But I'm gonna go to the range after I cool off inside for a bit. And then try and work on it.”
While Korda cooled off, her older sister Jessica continued her round, shooting even par for the day.
“It was definitely, probably the hottest I've been on a golf course and that's saying a lot,” Jessica Korda said. “I've won in Thailand and I've won in Malaysia. This is a whole 'nother beast of heat. When you feel it radiating inside the cups, you know it's pretty hot out there. So just trying to stay present was the goal today.”
Meanwhile, U.S. golfer Danielle Kang was blazing on the back nine. After a double bogey on the par-4 9th, the No. 5-ranked golfer in the world made birdies on the 14th and 17th. The key to performing well, she said, was forgetting both her bad and good shots quickly.
By the end of the first round, Kang was three shots back.
“I definitely checked out at some points of the round today, but I just had to do a lot of self-talk and remind myself who I'm playing for, what I'm playing for and the reason that I play,” Kang said. “Sometimes it wakes me up. I just look for shade at every possible point. I didn't even care where the bag was, I just walked away to look for shade.”
Lexi Thompson had one of the most challenging days of all, losing her caddie Jack Fulghum after the 15th hole as he succumbed to the intense heat. Fulghum couldn't finish the round and LPGA director of player services Donna Wilkins stepped in.
Despite the loss of her caddie, Thompson finished her round 1 over. She made four birdies, including three on the back nine. At the end of the round, red-and-blue tinted hair soaked with sweat, Thompson was just happy the dye didn’t bleed onto her shirt.
“I came into the day having a sore throat, not feeling great,” Thompson said. “And then dealing with my caddie just not being able to finish and it's tough. I was so worried about him. It's so hot out there. I'm from Florida and I'm still not used to that bad of heat.”
The tournament lasts three more days, and the blaring sun probably won’t let up until rain that's forecast for Saturday. Until then, the players are getting treatment, staying off their swollen feet and mentally preparing for the second round in the sun.
“I play golf every day,” Kang said. “So it's another round of golf tomorrow.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nelly Korda gets lightheaded but shoots 67 in Round 1 of Olympics