Great Britain’s Justin Rose became golf’s first Olympic champion in 112 years with a two-shot victory over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson in Rio de Janeiro.
On a sun-drenched final day in front of a sell-out crowd of 12,000 at Reserva de Marapendi Golf Course, Rose added the Olympic gold medal to his 2013 US Open title after an exciting battle down the stretch with reigning Open champion Stenson.
The packed grandstand watched spellbound as Rose got up-and-down from the side of the green at the final hole to seal victory as Stenson – who needed to hole a 25-footer to force a play-off – three-putted and had to settle for sliver.
Stenson, who emerged on top after a similarly epic shoot-out with Phil Mickelson in The Open at Royal Troon last month, had to accept second place this time. Matt Kuchar of the United States claimed the bronze medal after a course record-equalling last round of 63.
“Olympic gold medalist – It sounds absolutely incredible,” said the 36-year-old Rose. “I was on that last green, just sort of pinching myself and taking myself back to the quote that I had given about the Olympics all along – that I hoped my resumé one day read: ‘multiple major champion and Olympic gold medalist’ and if that happened then I’d be a very, very happy man. I pretty much just need the multiple major now, but for the most part, I’m there on that quote.
“The whole week, I’ve been so focused, really, to be honest with you. I’ve been just so determined, I suppose, to represent Team GB as best as I could, and it was just the most magical week, it really was,” added Rose, who finished with four rounds in the sixties for a 16-under-par total of 268.
The final round delivered the anticipated head-to-head between two outstanding Major champions with both men taking the lead at different times as they exchanged birdies. It seemed that Stenson might repeat his Open victory when he edged in front due to a Rose bogey at the 13th, but he handed back the initiative to the Englishman when he bogeyed the 14th and Rose knocked in an eight-footer for birdie on the 15th.
Despite both men missing the green at the last, it was Stenson who blinked first, hitting a weak chip to 25 feet while Rose struck a deft chip close to the hole for a cast-iron birdie four.
“When you’re in good position to try and win, you always kind of feel a little disappointed afterwards. But at the same time, we said that all along in the Olympics, you’ve got some pretty good consolation prizes,” said Stenson.
“I guess if you would have asked me before the week that I would leave here with a medal, I would have been pretty pleased and I managed to do that. I’m quite happy, I didn’t feel like I played my absolute best throughout the week but I played good enough to put myself in contention and that was my goal,” he added.
Bronze medalist Kuchar just came up short, despite equaling the record 63 set by Australian Marcus Fraser on Thursday. Had he not three-putted the 16th and failed to birdie the 18th, he might just have grabbed another colour of medal.
The leading three players completed the 72-hole test detached from the rest of the field, in which Belgium’s Thomas Pieters finished a highly creditable fourth after slicing 12 shots off his third-round 77 with a final day 65.
Top Asian honours went to Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnart, who shot a closing 67 for fifth place on 276.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green and Danny Chia carded final rounds of 68 and 69 respectively to finish 47th and 48th in final standings.
GOLD: 268 – Justin Rose (GBR) 67-69-65-67
SLIVER: 270 – Henrik Stenson (SWE) 66-68-68-68
BRONZE: 271 – Matt Kuchar (USA) 69 70 69 63 271
4th: 275 – Thomas Pieters (BEL) 67-66-77-65
T5th: 276 – Rafael Cabrera Bello (ESP) 67-70-71-68, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA) 71-69-69-67, Marcus Fraser (AUS) 63-69-72-72
T8th:277 – Sergio Garcia (ESP) 69-72-70-66, Bubba Watson (USA) 73-67-67-70, Emiliano Grillo (ARG) 70-69-68-70
47th: 287 – Gavin Kyle Green (MAS) 73-74-72-68
T48th: 288 – Danny Chia (MAS) 73-70-76-69