August 15, 2016
From the top step of the podium, Justin Rose bowed his head as the Olympic gold medal was placed around his neck, and he stared at it for the longest time.
Even for a major champion, this was more than he ever imagined.
''It's a moment you've seen in many other sports,'' Rose said. ''The medal ceremony is what it's all about, really.''
This was why the 36-year-old Englishman circled the Rio Games on his calendar all along, even as some of the biggest names in golf began pulling out. Rose came to Rio to watch, and to win.
And when his turn came Sunday, he delivered a gold-medal performance worthy of a 112-year wait.
The final round was so tense that no one led by more than one shot until Rose hit a 40-yard pitch to 3 feet, a shot every bit as significant as the 4-iron from 229 yards on the 18th hole at Merion when he won the 2013 U.S. Open.
The birdie gave him a 4-under 67 and a two-shot victory over Henrik Stenson to win golf's first gold medal since 1904 in St. Louis.
Matt Kuchar of the United States closed with a 63 to win the bronze.
How big was golf in the Olympics?
''I've never been so happy with a third-place finish in my life,'' Kuchar said.
And then there was Rose.
As the final putt fell into the cup, he thrust his fist into the air and popped the British crest on his shirt before turning to embrace Stenson. He raised both arms, pumped his fist again and took a bow.
''The reality is incredible. The reality hasn't sunk in,'' Rose said. ''The whole week, I've been so focused. I've been so into it. I've been up for it. 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.''
Stenson already faced one duel this summer at Royal Troon to win the British Open with the lowest score in major championship history. Deep in the round, the Swede said his spine locked up on him. He was stretching on all fours on the 13th and a physiotherapist worked on him at the 14th, where a poor chip cost him the lead. Stenson kept firing away, however, tying Rose with a pitch to 4 feet for birdie on the 16th.
They were tied coming to the final hole, fans lining both sides of the fairway, exactly the moment and atmosphere golf needed to make a good impression on the International Olympic Committee.
Stenson's pitch from 50 yards came up short, just over 20 feet away, and then Rose delivered what amounted to the winner. Knowing that Rose was in tight for birdie, Stenson rammed his birdie putt some 7 feet by the cup and missed the par putt, giving him a 3-under 68.
''He made a birdie and I didn't, and that's why he's got a gold medal and I got a silver,'' Stenson said.
It's not nearly as valuable as his silver claret jug from Royal Troon, but still special.
''We said that all along in the Olympics, you've got some pretty good consolation prizes,'' Stenson said.
Rose is the first gold medalist in golf since George Lyon of Canada won against a field of mostly Americans.
Golf organizations lobbied hard to get the sport back into the Olympics, only for some of the biggest stars - including the top four in the world - to withdraw in the month leading up to the Rio Games for reasons that ranged from fears over the Zika virus to security.
Padraig Harrington referred to them as ''sheep'' for following each other out of Olympics. The 60 players who came, dressed in their country colors and team bags - and three medals at the end of the week - showed what the absentees were missing.
''This is one of the greatest golf trips I've ever been on,'' said Bubba Watson, who had planned to stay in private housing until moving into the Olympic Village on Tuesday because he didn't want to miss out on the experience.
Even better was seeing a teammate make his way to the medal stand.
''We're asked to play for our country and he pulled us through today,'' Watson said. ''I'm so proud he got the bronze.''
The lasting memory of golf's return was Rose and Stenson going toe-to-toe for more than five hours before a sellout crowd (capped at 12,000 tickets), neither with more than a one-stroke advantage until it was over. And there was Rose at the end, wildly pumping fists as British fans waved the Union Jack around the 18th green.
He won the U.S. Open at Merion three years ago. Rose said he always wanted his career to be remembered for multiple majors.
''But let's just call it major champion and Olympic gold medalist,'' Rose said. ''I'd be a very, very happy man.''
August 14, 2016
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson know what it's like to play next to each other on a big stage when it's all about flag and the gold prize.
That was two years ago at the Ryder Cup, and they were undefeated as partners.
They will be rivals Sunday, playing under their own flag, each pursuing golf's first Olympic gold medal since 1904.
Rose made two eagles in the opening five holes Saturday and did a little shimmy after making a 10-foot par putt at the end for a 6-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead over Stenson going into the final round - the medal round - at Olympic Golf Course.
After 112 years away, and three days of what amounted to preliminary heats, golf finally gets the feel of being in the Olympics when medals are awarded.
''It's like all the other sports,'' Rose said. ''You work really hard to get into the final, and tomorrow is about a great performance and bringing your best golf when you need it. I have the opportunity, and tomorrow is going to be fun.''
Rose was at 12-under 201, a slim margin over Stenson in any circumstances, even more considering the Swede is a month away from his some of the best golf ever played when he won the British Open at Royal Troon with the lowest 72-hole score in major championship history.
Stenson had another 68, his best moment with a wedge in his hand - but not for a shot he hit.
Walking along the edge of the water on the par-5 10th hole, Stenson spotted a caiman - a small crocodile in these parts - and reached over to poke it with the end of his golf club.
''A little tickle with a lob wedge,'' Stenson said. ''I thought it could handle that, and if it would have been twice the size, then you probably need to go into the longer irons. He wasn't too big. He was facing the right way for me.''
He wound up making birdie on that hole, and two birdies later on the back nine kept him within range of Rose.
It's not a two-man race, even if it felt like one.
Marcus Fraser, the leader after the first two rounds, hit into a bunker on four straight holes early on and wound up with only one birdie in his round of 72. He was still alone in third place, though he was four shots behind and his lack of length could be factor in trying to keep pace with Rose and Stenson.
Fraser was never expecting to be in the Rio Games until four other Australians withdrew.
''Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would come to the Olympics and compete, and now all of a sudden I have a chance of winning a medal,'' Fraser said. ''It feels like I'm going to wake up from this dream at some point. Hopefully, tomorrow I can go out there and play a bit better than I did today.
Bubba Watson kept American hopes alive with a 5-under 67 that featured his own surreal moment. Watson had a 30-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole, but when he took his putter back, a clump of mud dropped to the ground. Watson tried to stop his stroke and failed, so the ball traveled only about 6 feet.
''It was the funniest thing ever,'' Watson said. ''I thought it could have been a bee or a bug. I looked down and I was like, 'That's mud. Where it come from?' Mud putter. ... We laughed about it because I was like, 'Man, I'm going to be famous now. I'm going to be a legend in Olympic golf history.'''
It would help to make up six shots on Rose, or even two shots on Fraser, to go home with something.
Watson shot 67 and was at 6-under 207 with Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and David Lingmerth of Sweden, both shooting 68. Another shot behind were Matt Kuchar and Padraig Harrington, the Irishman who was part of the panel that presented golf's case when it was voted back into the Olympics.
Rickie Fowler had the low round of the blustery day with a 64, though he remained nine shots behind.
Rose was four shots off the lead to start the second round, but not for long. He holed a 75-foot pitch for eagle from just short of the third green, where the tees were moved up to make it a 285-yard hole into the wind. Then, he hit 7-iron to 15 feet on the downwind, par-5 fifth hole and made that for another eagle. He took the lead for the first time with a 35-foot putt from off the 12th green.
For all the talk about the stars who stayed home, this is just what golf needed in its return to the Olympics. Stenson is highest-ranked player in the field at No. 5, while Rose is at No. 12 and another player hopeful of adding an Olympic gold medal to the U.S. Open trophy he won in 2013.
''It would mean an awful lot,'' Rose said. ''You see what it means to the other Olympic athletes. Once a guy slips a gold medal around his neck, we'll all understand how important it is.''
August 13, 2016
Australian Marcus Fraser closed with a tap-in birdie to seize the lead after Friday's second round of the Rio Olympics men's golf tournament with British Open champion Henrik Stenson and Belgium's Thomas Pieters making a charge.
Fraser, ranked 90th, fired a two-under par 69 to stand on 10-under 132 after 36 holes and sustain hopes of a wire-to-wire victory at the first Olympic golf event in 112 years.
"I played really well," Fraser said. "I putted well. I felt comfortable out there and good about things. Hopefully more of the same at the weekend."
Pieters, ranked 64th, was one stroke adrift after opening and closing with three consecutive birdies to shoot 66 despite playing much of his round in heavy rains and brisk wind before afternoon clearing.
"I putted very well for the course conditions," Pieters said. "I finished with three birdies in a row so I was very pleased. It's not good enough yet. I'm excited about the weekend and just going to enjoy it."
Sweden's fifth-ranked Stenson, the top man in Rio after the world's four top rated players stayed home, birdied three of the last four holes and sank a 90-foot par putt in a round of 68 to stand third on 134.
"I made some birdies coming home and three under isn't a bad score, so I'm right in there," Stenson said.
Britain's Justin Rose, who made the first ace in Olympic history on Thursday, and France's Gregory Bourdy each fired 69 to share fourth on 136.
"There were a lot of challenges early with the rain and the wind," Rose said. "I managed to settle down and play a solid round."
"It was very difficult," Bourdy said. "I think under par in these conditions was a good score. Six under is a good start to the tournament."
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson had the shot of the day, the American holing out from 93 yards in the fairway for an eagle at the par-4 third. The ball bounced three times on the green, then backspun into the flagstick and dropped into the cup.
Fraser made short birdie putts at the third and par-5 fifth holes and a five-foot birdie putt at 11 put Fraser ahead by four strokes. But the Aussie was shy of the green with approaches at 12 and 16 on his way to bogeys and needed the birdie on 18 after driving the green to stay in front.
Stenson answered a bogey at the par-3 14th with birdies at 15, 16 and, after a bogey, at 18. But his best shot was a 90-foot par putt at the third after his tee shot found water.
"You're just standing there praying for a two-putt bogey and before I know it that thing found the bottom of the cup," Stenson said. "It's the longest putt I have made in my career."
Pieters, a 24-year-old Belgian, made two short birdie putts after making an 18-footer at the first. He ended with a tap-in birdie at 16, a 15-footer at par-3 17 and a four-footer at the par-5 18th.
Rose missed a 10-foot par putt at 15, lipped out a five-footer for birdie at 16 but sank a 12-foot birdie putt at 17 only to strand a 12-foot birdie putt on the lip of the cup at 18.
"Left a few shots out there on the last few holes," Rose said. Shot a couple under and that keeps pace, keeps me feeling OK about things and confident heading into the weekend."
August 12, 2016
On a day of firsts for Olympic golf, Marcus Fraser of Australia had the one that mattered - the first-round lead.
Fraser ran off four straight birdies before the wind arrived and kept right on going until he had an 8-under 63, giving him a three-shot lead over British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Graham DeLaet of Canada.
Better yet? He set an Olympic record Thursday, though that was hardly a surprise considering golf had not been part of the Olympics since 1904.
''That's pretty cool,'' Fraser said. ''So hopefully, that lasts all week.''
There was plenty for golf to celebrate in its return to the Olympics, from the opening tee shot by Adilson da Silva of Brazil to the first hole-in-one by Justin Rose, who wasn't even sure his 7-iron from 189 yards on the fourth hole had gone in the cup until he heard the crowd.
And yes, it was quite the crowd.
No one was quite sure what to expect from the gallery on the first day, in a country with very little golf heritage and with no medals awarded until Sunday. Padraig Harrington was surprised to see more than 6,000 spread out across Olympic Golf Course, holding flags along the fairway ropes and sending cheers from all corners.
It all started with da Silva, the only Brazilian in the 60-man field, so nervous over that opening shot that ''my head was everywhere,'' he said. His drive went straight down the middle, and golf was on its way.
''The end of a long journey,'' said Peter Dawson, president of the International Golf Federation. ''Or the beginning of a new one.''
DeLaet, who has struggled with the yips in his short game so badly that he took six weeks off this summer, was in the first group to honor George Lyon, the Canadian who last won a gold medal in golf at the St. Louis Games. He didn't need much of a short game by hitting 14 out of 18 greens. And he knows his history.
''It's been a while since we've won a gold,'' DeLaet cracked when he finished.
Stenson was in the last group and faced the strongest wind, but the Swede who set a major championship scoring record at Royal Troon dropped only one shot. His biggest struggle was with fans taking photos with their mobile phones.
''It was a patience test out there,'' Stenson said. ''I think we had to back off quite a lot of shots. There were more mobile phones and cameras than normal, I guess because it's a different crowd out there than we normally have.''
The biggest surprise came from the Americans.
Rickie Fowler said earlier in the week that with four Americans in the field - no other country has more than two - they could sweep the podium. After one round, Matt Kuchar at 69 was the only American to break par.
Fowler had a 30-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, and four putts later he walked off with a double bogey. It didn't get much better from there. Fowler shot a 75, beating only two players - Rodolfo Cazaubon of Mexico and Lin Wen-Tang of Taiwan.
Bubba Watson couldn't buy a putt and started his back nine with a tee shot into a native area with sand thick enough to host beach volleyball. That led to a double bogey and he wound up at 73. Patrick Reed made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch after making the turn and shot 72.
''Horrendous,'' Reed said.
More than half of the field was at par or better. Adding to the Olympic spirit is that the 10 players who shot 68 or better came from nine countries.
The vibe on the first tee was strong, not nearly the level of a Ryder Cup, but different from other tournaments with players dressed in team colors and being introduced by country.
''The nerves don't get me very many places. Here it was a little different,'' Kuchar said. ''I think I was the first American to tee off today. To hear my name announced as an Olympian and to go tee off, there were a few more butterflies than I anticipated.''
Harrington, one of four players chosen to present golf's case to the International Olympic Committee when it was voted back into the games in 2009, said he was more nervous on the opening tee than when he played his first major. And then he opened with a bogey.
He rallied for a 69, but on this day, the score was only part of what mattered.
''I said it to the guys walking off, 'Now we are Olympians,' and nobody can take that away from us,'' he said. ''When you think about it, most weeks you have 156 guys playing, 155 losers. This week, you have 60 guys playing, and we are all winners.''
|T5||ESP||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-8||-||67||70||71||68||276|
|T11||KOR||Byeong Hun An||-6||-||68||72||70||68||278|
|T39||BRA||Adilson Da Silva||1||-||72||71||73||69||285|
|T43||RSA||Jaco Van Zyl||2||-||71||74||70||71||286|
|47||MAL||Gavin Kyle Green||3||-||73||74||72||68||287|
|59||POR||Ricardo Melo Gouveia||13||-||73||68||76||80||297|