Golf: Rose claims golf’s 1st gold in 112 years
Rio de Janeiro — Justin Rose delivered a gold-medal performance in golf worthy of a 112-year wait.
In a final round Sunday so tense no one led by more than one shot, Rose won on the last hole with a 40-yard pitch to 3 feet for birdie and a 4-under 67, giving him a two-shot victory over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson to win the first gold medal in golf since 1904 in St. Louis.
Already a major champion, the 36-year-old Brit showed how much it meant.
As the final putt fell into the cup, Rose 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 hasn’t sunk in,” Rose said. “I’ve been just so determined to represent team GB as best as I could. It was just the most magical week.”
American Matt Kuchar closed with a 63 for bronze.
Stenson already faced one duel this summer at Royal Troon to win the British Open with the lowest score in major championship history.
But deep in Sunday’s 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. The 40-year-old 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 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.
Kuchar started the final round seven shots out of the lead and provided his own thrills. Kuchar went 6 under during a six-hole stretch. He capped it off with a 15-foot eagle on the 10th hole to get him in the mix, and his wedge to 2 feet for birdie on the 17th put him one shot behind.
He failed to birdie the 18th, however, and Stenson and Rose at that point were two shots ahead facing birdie chances down the stretch.
“I can’t explain the pride to you that’s just busting out of my chest,” Kuchar said.
Golf organizations lobbied to get the sport back into the Games, only for some of the biggest stars to withdraw the month leading up to Rio for reasons that ranged from fears over the Zika virus to security.
Padraig Harrington called them as “sheep” for following each other out. The 60 players who came, dressed in their country colors and team bags showed what they missed.
“This is one of the greatest golf trips I’ve ever been on,” said American 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.