Justin Rose has been the ultimate Olympic tourist in the last ten days – now he’s going home with the best holiday gift ever in his luggage.
Rose has certainly enjoyed his stay in Rio. He embraced the opening ceremony like a kid who’d eaten too much sugar, tweeted his view from swimming pool to food hall and will leave Brazil with an impressive collection of athlete selfies along with his gold medal.
He even borrowed a couple of Andy Murray’s tennis rackets for a quick game with his caddy.
From striking a hole-in-one in the first round to holding off the challenge of Open champion Henrik Stenson in a thrilling conclusion, Rose has more than played his part and his his sport owes him a debt of gratitude too.
“That felt better than anything I’ve ever won,” said Rose, who, it should be underlined, was the first British golfer since Tony Jacklin, 43 years previously, to win the US Open with his victory three years ago.
“It feels absolutely incredible. I was on that last green, just sort of pinching myself and taking myself back to the quote that I had given about the Olympics all along.
“I hope my resume one day reads ‘multiple major champion and Olympic gold medallist’. But let’s just call it major champion and Olympic gold medallist, I’d be a very, very happy man.
“The whole week I’ve been so focused and I’ve been so up for it. I’ve been just so determined to represent Team GB as best as I could, and it was just the most magical week, it really was.
“This is a dream come true. I’ve been thinking about Rio for a long, long time. I made it a big deal in my year and I had the benefit of walking in the opening ceremony and watching other sports, which was all part of the plan.
“Once I got here and experienced the whole vibe I’ve just been really excited and to come out with a medal is great. To come out with a gold is unbelievable. It sits alongside the US Open trophy for me.”
“This was the best tournament I’ve ever done. It felt like a cross between a golf tournament and a carnival. It was unique and incredible.”
Some said the Olympics simply wasn’t a priority but trying tell that to Rose and Stenson, two major champions, who battled all the way to the final hole in a gripping conclusion that couldn’t have been better scripted. This meant something more than another stop on the tour.
American Matt Kuchar fired a flawless final round 63 to move into contention but settled for bronze as Stenson and Rose took their duel down the stretch.
Heading down the final hole, a play-off looked a possibility until Rose struck a nerveless chip to two feet and Stenson missed his long-range attempt at a birdie. That gave Rose two putts for gold but he needed just one.
“Coming up with that last pitch when I needed it was magical and hopefully we’ve shown Brazil what golf is about,” he said.
“I’m glad it was close, not for my nerves, for golf. Hopefully this is the first of many Olympic golf tournaments but it feels very special to be the first person to win in 112 years.”
Earlier this week, British weightlifter Sonny Webster was about to make his Olympic debut and was struggling with nerves.
A big golf fan, he went up to Rose, who spent nearly an hour discussing how he copes with the pressure of the big occasion. The Olympics is always about the sum of its parts, not the individual, which is why the decision to grant golf a place on the schedule was so controversial.
But Rose proved the perfect team player and got his reward.
By James Toney, Sportsbeat, in Rio
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