Capping a thrilling final round that saw the two Ryder Cup team-mates go blow for blow, Rose birdied the last to win the title by two strokes from the Swede. Giving his reaction after carding a final round four-under-par 67 to enter golfing and Olympic history, the jubilant British player said: “Olympic champion? That has a cool ring to it! The medal ceremony was surreal. I’ve watched many on TV. I never thought I’d be involved in one. Honestly, this is just a dream come true. I’ve been thinking about Rio for a long, long time. It is just crazy, just so good.”
Sparing a word for his Swedish opponent, Rose added: “I was in a great fight with Henrik, a good friend of mine, and it took world class golf to win today, so I am very proud of the achievement and I’ve just got to let it all soak in now.”
Rose had made history on day one of the four-day tournament, when he conjured up a hole-in-one at the par three fourth hole. That ensured that golf, which was making its long-awaited return to the Olympic programme after an absence of more than a century, captured plenty of headlines. And Rose was never far from the thick of the action.
In the first round it was little-feted Australian Marcus Fraser who stormed into the lead, but the 36-year-old was never too far from the lead, and over the subsequent three rounds, he and Stenson, laid on an entertaining and at times thrilling duel, which captured the collective imagination of the Rio public.
Feeling the Olympic vibe
Rose held a one-stroke lead from Stenson going into the final round. Though eventual bronze medallist Matt Kuchar of the USA staked a compelling claim for gold by carding a stunning 63, the last day came down to a thrilling two-way duel between the two Europeans.
The Briton shot four birdies and solitary bogey on his outward nine, with the Swede keeping pace with four birdies of his own in the opening ten holes. When Rose dropped a shot at 13 the two were level, with the prospect of a play-off looming large. The two were tied at 15 under par heading down the last, only for Rose to strike a fine approach shot to within feet of the pin, heaping the pressure on Stenson.
The Swede put his long birdie putt past the hole and missed the return to card a bogey six, allowing Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open champion, the luxury of two putts for victory. He needed only one, sinking his birdie putt before punching the air and soaking up the acclaim of the crowd. “To come out with a medal is incredible; to come out of it with gold, unbelievable,” said golf’s first Olympic champion since 1904. “I knew it was a possibility [winning gold] but there were so many great players. I came here in good form, I felt excited about competing. And then when I actually got down to Rio and experienced the whole vibe of the Olympics I have just been really excited.”
Reflecting on his silver medal, Stenson, who won the British Open in July, said: “It was going to be a battle today and I think I battled pretty well. It was kind of head-to-head with Justin all day, and it was going to come down to whoever finished the strongest and he birdied the last to win it.
“I have no regrets really,” added Svenson, who was consistency personified with an opening round of 66 followed by three 68s. “I did as well as I could today and congratulations to my good friend who won it today.”