Australian Marcus Fraser carded an opening 63 to lead the first round of the Olympic Men’s Golf Competition in Rio de Janeiro. Meanwhile, Malaysians Danny Chia and Gavin Green carded identical 73s to be 10 shots off the pace.
On a momentous day when golf was reunited with the Olympic movement after a 112-year absence, Justin Rose stole some of the thunder with the first hole-in-one in Olympic history at the Reserva de Marapendi course. However, it was 38-year-old Fraser from Melbourne who took command with nine birdies against one bogey to lead by three strokes over Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Canadian Graham DeLaet.
“We were just saying: ‘I’ve got the Olympic record’. That’s pretty cool, and hopefully that lasts all week,” said Fraser, winner of the Maybank Championship Malaysia earlier this year.
Fittingly, it was a 44-year-old Brazilian, Adilson da Silva, who was handed the honour of striking the first Olympic golf shot in the modern era at 7.30am. It was also appropriate that the first three-ball of the Olympic competition contained DeLaet, whose countryman, George Lyon, was the last person to capture a precious gold medal in the dying embers of golf’s last flirtation with the Olympics 112 years previously.
DeLaet was aware of the Canadian connection as he flexed his competitive muscles with an outstanding round of 66, five-under-par and observed: “We said as we were walking off the first tee that this is pretty cool – the first time in over a hundred years – and we’re the lead group. It was nice.”
As the day unfolded, and more new Olympians were established with every passing tee time, it was clear that golf was savouring its return to Olympic prominence. The quality of the play reflected that.
Rose enjoyed the feeling of recording the first hole in one of the new Olympic era, as his seven iron from 189 yards disappeared into the hole at the fourth.
“Definitely one of those icing on the cake moments, when you’re the first to do anything, no one can ever take that away from you, whatever it is,” said Rose, who is tied for fourth at four under par. “That was definitely a cool moment.”
Stenson, who won his first Major at Royal Troon last month, noted that his confidence is still high: “Hopefully confidence doesn’t wear off that easily, but more than anything, I’m just focusing on my game and what I need to do, and I feel like I’ve got pretty good control over most areas of my game, what I need to focus on. It was all about trying to get some energy back. Days like these are tiring, playing in these conditions.”