By the time Canada's Brooke Henderson had reached the 16th hole at the Olympic golf course Saturday, she knew she had to somehow make magic happen.
She could see the leaderboard. Korea's Inbee Park was running away with the tournament. There were a couple five and six behind vying for silver and bronze. If Henderson could get it to nine under, she knew she had a chance to maybe sneak into a playoff.
On 16, Henderson hit first on the short par three and knocked it stiff. Her two playing partners, Stacy Lewis from the U.S. and Nanna Madsen from Denmark, also hit their tee shots close, but outside Henderson's. She would putt last.
The American and Dane knocked in their birdie putts ahead of Henderson. Somewhere there is an algorithm that would have shown that the odds of Henderson making birdie went down considerably when her playing partners made two ahead of her. And you had to wonder whether that thought crept into Henderson's mind too. After giving the putt extra attention, Henderson tapped it along her intended line. It stayed high, just sniffing the left side of the cup.
As it passed by, you could see hope die on the Canadian superstar's face: barring some miracle shot, her medal hopes were over. She knew it. But to her credit, she didn't quit. She went on to birdie her last two holes just missing eagle on 18, to finish at 8 under, good for a tie for seventh place in the first Olympic golf tournament in 112 years. Canada's Alena Sharp finished 30th out of a field of 60.
Park would win the gold, New Zealand's Lydia Ko the silver and China's Shanshan Feng the bronze.
Henderson had been boosted by a small but vocal group of Canadians all week. As the golfer walked off the final hole, a woman yelled out from the crowd: "Canada's proud of you Brooke." Henderson's face lit up. Afterwards, the 18-year-old was philosophical about her experience.
"I learned a lot this week, both on and off the course," Henderson told reporters afterwards, without elaborating on what those things were. "I pushed hard on the back, made a couple of key putts early on, made some birdies but just fell short. At the end of the day I tried my best."
The conclusion of the women's tournament put a cap on golf's much-anticipated return to the Olympics.
Given the globalization of the sport over the past several decades its inclusion in the Games had made sense for some time. That its Olympic debut would occur as the growth of the game was stalling in North American and beyond, was viewed as a bonus. But then the Zika fear arose. And a slow trickle of the game's top male players began to pull out over fears of contracting the virus. Soon the leak became a flood: Australia's Jason Day; Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy; Americans Jordan Speith and Dustin Johnson. The list went on. It was shameful.
Those who had pushed so hard to get the sport in the Olympics were devastated and no doubt felt betrayed.
It was the young players on the LPGA and European tours who were the ones expected to be withdrawing, given the hysteria created over the threat Zika was said to pose to pregnancies. And yet when it came time to tee it up here this week, it was the women who came through in the name of the sport, not the men. Not a single big star in the women's game used Zika as an excuse to pull out. Consequently, their tournament proved to be extraordinarily compelling, with fans being treated to some of golf's greatest players at the top of their game.
Henderson was asked later if she thought the Olympics would bring greater exposure to the women's game.
"I hope so," she said. "I think the ratings were quite high for the men so I'm hoping it will be the same for us. I saw a lot of kids in the crowd so if we inspired some of them to pick up the sport then it will have been a good week."