On a momentous day when golf was reunited with the Olympic movement after a 112-year absence, Australian Marcus Fraser leads the men’s competition after shooting the lowest score of a thrilling opening day, which saw Justin Rose capture the first hole-in-one in Olympic history.
As a new era dawned for the sport amid the colossal carnival which represents sport’s greatest show on earth – putting a huge smile on the face of golf – it was 38-year-old Fraser from Melbourne who took command by firing an eight-under-par 63 to grab the first round lead.
The bounce in Fraser’s step was unmistakable as he laughed, “We were just saying: ‘I’ve got the Olympic record’. That’s pretty cool, and hopefully that lasts all week.”
Fraser claimed nine birdies over the purpose-built Olympic course at Reserva de Marapendi to open up a three-stroke lead over Open champion Henrik Stenson and Canadian Graham DeLaet as the 60 newest and proudest Olympic athletes set the tone for a potentially epic few days’ play in Rio.
Fittingly, it was a 44-year-old Brazilian, Adilson da Silva, who was handed the honour of striking the first Olympic golf shot in the modern era at 7.30am, a time when most of the swimmers, gymnasts, boxers and beach volleyball heroes were tucked up in the Olympic Village.
It was also appropriate that the first three-ball of the Olympic competition contained DeLaet, whose countryman, George Lyon, was the last person to capture a precious gold medal in the dying embers of golf’s last flirtation with the Olympics 112 years previously.
DeLaet was aware of the Canadian connection as he flexed his competitive muscles with an outstanding round of 66, five-under-par and observed: “We said as we were walking off the first tee that this is pretty cool – the first time in over a hundred years – and we’re the lead group. It was nice.”
As the day unfolded, and more new Olympians were established with every passing tee time, it was clear that golf was savouring its return to Olympic prominence. The quality of the play reflected that.
Rose enjoyed the feeling of recording the first hole-in-one of the new Olympic era, as his seven iron from 189 yards disappeared into the hole at the fourth.
“Definitely one of those icing on the cake moments, when you’re the first to do anything, no one can ever take that away from you, whatever it is,” said Rose, who is tied for fourth at four under par. “That was definitely a cool moment.”
DeLaet admitted he was inspired by meeting the Canadian women who won the first bronze in Rugby Sevens. He said: “We went to the Canada House on Tuesday night and the Rugby Sevens girls were with us on the bus going over there, and they had their Bronze Medals when they got there.
“You know, we got to hold it. We took a picture with the girls and that’s when it really kind of became real to me how amazing it would be to get that chunk of medal. Obviously gold would be incredible, but I think bringing home anything would be really, really special. I know that countries always count medals, so to be able to add to what Canada can rack up would be pretty awesome.”
Stenson, who won his first major at Royal Troon last month, racked up six birdies and one bogey in his 66 to join DeLaet in second spot, with Justin Rose of Great Britain among a group of five players on 67, four under par.
He admitted that confidence is still high after his Open win and said: “Hopefully confidence doesn’t wear off that easily, but more than anything, I’m just focusing on my game and what I need to do, and I feel like I’ve got pretty good control over most areas of my game, what I need to focus on. It was all about trying to get some energy back. Days like these are tiring, playing in these conditions.”