Justin Rose outduels Henrik Stenson for golf gold
Great Britain’s Justin Rose made birdie on the 72nd hole to finally put away Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and win the first Olympic gold medal awarded for golf in 112 years.
Leaderboard: Rose (-16), Stenson (-14), Kuchar (-13), Thomas Pieters (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Kiradech Aphribarnrat (-8)
Gold: Rose is now the only player in history to win both a major championship and an Olympic gold medal for golf. This is his 16th worldwide victory across six different continents. Up one to start the day, the 2013 U.S. Open champ poured in three birdies on his first five holes and turned in 3 under. He briefly lost the lead to Stenson after a birdie at 13 but immediately got it back when Stenson bogeyed 14 and Rose birdied 15. Tied with Stenson through 71 holes, Rose hit a pitch shot from 39 yards to just a few feet on 18. When Stenson raced his own birdie try by the hole and three-putted for bogey, Rose cleaned up for birdie, pumped his fist, let out a yell, and grabbed his Great Britain team shirt. Three years after his win at Merion, Rose claimed the gold in Rio.
Silver: The reigning Champion Golfer of the Year, Stenson kept pace with Rose for 71 holes before faltering on 18. Like Rose, he started with three birdies on his first five holes and turned in 32. But it was his short game that failed him down the stretch. Stenson lost his outright lead when he failed to get up and down for par at 14, and he gave away his chance at the gold when he left his 50-yard pitch to the final green 23 feet from the hole. Going for gold, Stenson raced his birdie try 8 feet past. When his come-backer for par missed low, Stenson tapped in for a bogey, a 3-under 68 and the silver medal.
Bronze: Kuchar wouldn’t have been in the Olympic field were it not for Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson’s deciding to stay home. Up until last week, the seven-time PGA Tour winner didn’t even know the Olympic format. But Sunday afternoon, he stood on the medal stand. Four shots out of third place to start the day, Kuchar raced up the leaderboard with four front-nine birdies and an eagle at the par-5 10th. Two clear of Thomas Pieters through 14 holes, Kuchar pulled away from the chase pack with birdies at 15 and 17. He missed out on a chance to set a new Olympic record of 62 and maybe force a playoff for silver when his birdie putt at 18 came up inches short. Instead, he tapped in for a round of 8-under 63 and the bronze medal.
Biggest disappointment: The sixth Australian on the Olympic list, Marcus Fraser got to Rio after four of his countrymen withdrew, and for three days it looked like he was going to leave with a medal. The 38-year-old opened with an Olympic record 63 Thursday and held the solo lead for 36 holes. Playing in the final group with Rose and Stenson, Fraser started Sunday alone in third, three shots clear of the field in the race for bronze. But Fraser’s run came to an end on Nos. 3-8 Sunday, when he sandwiched two birdies with four bogeys. He posted 1-over 71 to finish tied for fifth at minus-8.
Rest of the U.S.: Bubba Watson made the turn at even, birdied the 10th hole and closed with eight straight pars to shoot 1-under 70, finish 7 under for the week, and tie for eighth place. One over through his first three rounds, Patrick Reed blitzed the back nine with six birdies to shoot 7-under 64 and finish tied for 11th. And finally, rather than challenging for a “backdoor medal,” Rickie Fowler moved the wrong way on the leaderboard, posting a final-round 74 to finish tied for 37th at even par.
Shot of the day: Rose’s gorgeous pitch to the 18th green that secured the gold.