Cool Rose holds off Sten­son to re­alise his Olympic dream

Bri­ton is golf ’s first cham­pion since 1904 Gar­cia fires a broad­side at ab­sent world stars

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 - By James Cor­ri­gan at Rio de Janeiro

Justin Rose, Olympic cham­pion. Easy to say, hard for the English­man to be­lieve, af­ter a duel with Hen­rik Sten­son that stretched the senses to break­ing point.

When he tapped in to fi­nally kill off the in­de­fati­ga­ble Swede to be­come not only the first Bri­tish golfer to win a gold medal, but the first golfer of any na­tion­al­ity to win gold in 112 years, his emo­tions were ob­vi­ous. Over­whelmed, over­come, over­joyed.

Ian Poulter would have been proud of the gusto with which his great friend punched the air, as he would have been of the “come on!” yell and the grasp of the Union Flag on his shirt. Rose then pointed his fin­ger at the air, in hon­our of his late fa­ther, Ken, just as he had when he won the US Open three years ago. It meant so much.

The 36-year-old was such an ap­pro­pri­ate win­ner be­cause of the high stan­dard of his play and, more per­ti­nently, be­cause of his un­stint­ing en­thu­si­asm for his sport’s re­turn to the Olympic fold. Amid all the ran­cour and re­crim­i­na­tion, Rose never wa­vered in his de­sire to rep­re­sent his coun­try at th­ese Games. At the start of the week, he de­clared that Sten­son was the favourite and he knew he would have to suc­ceed where Phil Mick­el­son so gal­lantly failed at the Open last month. Rose’s con­vic­tion was ir­re­sistible.

“I was on that last green, pinch­ing my­self and tak­ing my­self back to the quote I gave about the Olympics: ‘I hope my re­sumé one day reads ‘ma­jor Cham­pion and Olympic gold medal­list’,” Rose said. “I went out to­day say­ing I had to ‘out-Sten­son’ Sten­son. The whole week, I’ve been so fo­cused, so into it, so up for it. I was so de­ter­mined to rep­re­sent Team GB as best as I could. It was just the most mag­i­cal week, it re­ally was. I’m burst­ing with pride.”

Sten­son played such a part in this nail-biter and the sil­ver was the very least he de­served. There was a fleet- ing mo­ment when Matt Kuchar, the fast-fin­ish­ing Amer­i­can, threat­ened to gate­crash the shootout, but es­sen­tially th­ese Ry­der Cup part­ners made the stage their own. They went at it from the off, trad­ing birdies, with Sten­son hol­ing a 40-footer on the sec­ond to can­cel out the overnight deficit and Rose re­spond­ing with red num­bers of his own. The crit­ics said the Olympics tour­na­ment should be match play and so they were granted their wish. It be­came a case of who would crack first and, when Rose stood over a 15footer for par on the 14th, the doubts emerged. This would be no time to grant Sten­son the ad­van­tage.

But Rose nerve­lessly holed out, and so af­ter a few more back-and- forth blows they went up the parfive 18th locked on 15 un­der. Out of reach in two, it came down to a pitch and putt for gold and, af­ter Sten­son had come up 20 feet short, Rose stepped up for one of the shots of his life. As a 17-year-old am­a­teur, Rose fa­mously chipped in on the last to fin­ish fourth at the 1998 Open and once again his aim in front of the grand­stands did not err, flop­ping it over a mound and run­ning it up to hole’s side.

Some­what in­evitably, Sten­son forced the putt and missed the one com­ing back and Rose’s glory was as­sured as he out-shot his pal, 6768. Af­ter­wards an emo­tional Mark Fulcher, Rose’s cad­die, re­vealed the mind­set.

“Rosey saw that pic­ture of that swim­mer [Chad Le Clos] ear­lier in the week look­ing des­per­ately at Michael Phelps as he went past him and he said we couldn’t do that, we had to keep our head down and keep go­ing for­wards, if we wanted to beat the hottest player in the world,” Fulcher said. “He wanted this so much and came of age to­day.”

As, in many re­spects, did golf as an Olympic sport. Thomas Bach and Jacques Rogge, the IOC pres­i­dent and his pre­de­ces­sor, were here to wit­ness the grip­ping drama and could not have failed to have been im­pressed. Golf must be one of the few sports in this Games to have ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions with the at­ten­dances; sell-out crowds of 12,000 help­ing to make the week­end such a suc­cess.

And with two well-known ma­jor-winners slug­ging it out and with Kuchar mak­ing a star­tling run with a 63 to claim a medal for the US pow­er­house, it must be hoped the TV view­ing fig­ures will also be pos­i­tive to help per­suade the IOC, in its re­view next year, to keep golf on the ros­ter be­yond Tokyo 2020. Cer­tainly it has been pos­si­ble to for­get all the neg­a­tiv­ity caused by the with­drawal of Rory McIl­roy and the rest of the world’s top four. Well, al­most.

Af­ter his 66, to fin­ish eighth, Ser­gio Gar­cia, tak­ing aim at McIl­roy, tweeted: “Who­ever said @OlympicGolf didn’t mean any­thing must’ve been on drugs be­cause this is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing!!” Gar­cia tweeted. “Com­ing to Rio, my best de­ci­sion ever!” It def­i­nitely proved so for Rose. The 1904 cham­pion Ge­orge Lyon at last has a suc­ces­sor – Bri­tish golf ’s golden boy.

Pas­sion­ate: Justin Rose shows his de­light af­ter win­ning gold for Great Bri­tain

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