It took 112 years for golf to find a new Olympic champion, but it was well worth the wait. Britain’s Justin Rose followed in the footsteps of the long-departed George Lyon of Canada when he climbed onto the podium to collect the Olympic gold medal 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 crown to his 2013 US Open title after a prolonged and exciting battle down the stretch with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
In the end, the packed grandstand which turned the 18th arena into a noisy sporting amphitheatre, watched spellbound as Rose got up-and-down from the side of the green for the birdie which sealed a worthy gold medal performance.
Stenson, who knew he needed to hole a 25-footer of his own to force a play-off, three-putted and the first Olympic golf competition since 1904 had a new champion.
Stenson, who emerged on top after a similarly epic shoot-out with Phil Mickelson in The British Open at Royal Troon, had to accept second place this time and the silver medal was a deserving reward for his part in a wonderful spectacle which saw Matt Kuchar of the United States claim the bronze medal after a course record-equalling last round of 63.
Rose finished with four rounds in the sixties and his closing 67 secured the gold medal with a 16-under-par total of 268. Stenson took silver with a fourth-round 68 for 270 and Kuchar’s swashbuckling last day brought home the remaining medal on 271.
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.
After holing out for a birdie four on the 18th, Rose punched the air in celebration and fell into the arms of his wife, Kate, before savouring the medal ceremony as the Olympic golf champion.
“Olympic gold medallist – It sounds absolutely incredible,” said the 36-year-old. “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 medallist’ and if that happened then I’d be a very, very happy man.”