Olympic return well worth the wait
Expectations were high for the first Olympic golf events in more than a century, and Rio 2016 delivered spectacularly – with some captivating action on the course and a lasting legacy for years to come.
After an absence of 112 years, golf made a triumphant return to the Olympic Games at Rio 2016 with two thrilling championships.
In the men’s event, Great Britain’s Justin Rose clinched gold ahead of Sweden’s Henrik Stenson following an epic duel in the final round. Rose had fired a third-round 65, which included two eagles, to take a slender one-stroke lead over his Ryder Cup team-mate, and the pair continued to trade birdies throughout an enthralling final day. By the time they reached the championship’s 72nd hole, they were tied at 15-under, with the fight for the gold medal coming down to the 522-metre (571-yard) par-five 18th. Both players hit their second shots short of the green, with Stenson’s approach then leaving him with a testing 23-foot birdie putt. Rose, meanwhile, struck a superb pitch that spun and stopped just six feet from the hole. With Stenson hitting his first putt past the hole and missing from eight feet for par, Rose calmly sunk his birdie to become the first men’s Olympic golf champion for 112 years.
“That felt better than anything I’ve ever won,” exclaimed the Briton, who clinched one of golf’s Major titles at the US Open in 2013. “Coming up with that at the last hole when I needed it was magical.”
The women’s event was no-less entertaining, with the Republic of Korea’s Inbee Park underlining her status as one of the greatest female players of her generation as she captured gold with a stunning performance.
Trailing Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn by one stroke after the opening round, Park shot a second successive 66 to take a two-stroke lead over American Stacy Lewis in round two. A one-under 70 saw the seven-time Major champion maintain that advantage in round two, as New Zealand’s world number one Lydia Ko shot the low round of the day – a six-under-par 65 – to move into a tie for second place. Ko was no match for her Korean rival in the final round, however, as Park fired a 66 to secure a hugely impressive five stroke victory. In a tight contest for the silver medal, Ko birdied the 18th hole to edge out China’s Shanshan Feng by one stroke.
“I have won many tournaments, but I have never felt this before,” said an ecstatic Park afterwards. “I feel extremely honoured and proud to have won a gold medal in the Olympic Games. It’s really incredible. I’m so happy to climb up to that top step of the podium.”
Justin Rose (GREAT BRITAIN)“It’s been the best tournament of my life. It felt like a cross between a golf tournament and a carnival. It was unique, incredible!”MEN’S GOLD MEDALIST
Henrik Stenson (SWEDEN)“It’s a whole new experience for us as golfers, participating here, and it’s been fun. I’m really happy. It’s memories of a lifetime being here competing.”MEN’S SILVER MEDALIST
Matt Kuchar (USA)“This event has gone fantastically well with amazing support from the crowds.”MEN’S BRONZE MEDALIST
Rickie Fowler (USA)“It’s a special, special week, and something I’m going to remember forever.”
Inbee Park (REPUBLIC OF KOREA)“I’ve won majors, but I haven’t won a gold medal. In the Olympic Games, you get to only do it once every four years, so this feels very, very special.”WOMEN’S GOLD MEDALIST
Lydia Ko“To see other New Zealand athletes come out and support me has been amazing. That’s been one of the greatest memories of the week. It is an inspiration and is, I think, what the Olympics is all about.”WOMEN’S SILVER MEDALIST
Shanshan Feng (CHINA)“The bronze medal means a lot to me, because this is golf back in the Olympics after over a hundred years, and the first time that a Chinese athlete is competing in this event.”WOMEN’S BRONZE MEDALIST
Aditi Ashok (INDIA)“I’ve played in the Youth Olympics and it made me want to play in the Olympics as well. Getting the experience and playing for India and trying to win a medal for my country – it doesn’t get better than that.”
Did you know?
- The par-5 5th was statistically the easiest hole during the women’s tournament, giving up seven eagles and 97 birdies, with a scoring average of 4.668
- Justin Rose’s ace on the par-3 4th hole during the first round was the first hole-in-one ever recorded at the Olympic Games
- Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts led the men’s field in driving distance, averaging 280.4 metres (306.6 yards) off the tee
- The USA’s Lexi Thompson led the women’s field in driving distance, averaging 248.3 metres (271.5 yards) off the tee
- Maria Verchenova’s final-round 62 was the lowest score recorded during the women’s tournament, helping to move the Russian 25 places up the leaderboard into a tie for 16th
- The lowest round recorded during the men’s tournament was 63 – shot by Australia’s Marcus Fraser and the USA’s Matt Kuchar