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Golf Makes Its Triumphant Return to the Olympics

Golf Photo: 2016 Getty Images

For weeks leading up to the Olympic return of Golf, skepticism was everywhere. Critics complained that the sport wasn’t exciting enough and the top players wouldn’t participate.

On Sunday afternoon, flanked by crowds of fans waving every flag imaginable, Justin Rose of Great Britain claimed the first Olympic gold medal awarded in golf since 1904. He was among a number of players who said that this week proved that golf brings something unique to the Olympics.

“To anyone making the decision, I would just say: ‘Were you in Rio on Sunday?’” Rose said. “[The crowd] felt like a cross between a golf tournament and a carnival. It was unique, incredible.”

To claim the gold, Rose out dueled reigning British Open champ Henrik Stenson of Sweden, posting a 67 and finishing two shots clear of the man that was the highest ranked player in the tournament.

With the score neck and neck throughout the round, the two former Ryder Cup teammates were tied coming to the 18th tee. Rose then coasted to a tap-in birdie while Stenson made a poor approach shot and struggled to a three-putt bogey.

Rose became the third man in history to capture an Olympic gold in golf, and the first from Great Britain.

“Honestly this is just a dream come true, I have been thinking about Rio for a long, long time. It is just crazy, just so good.”

The bronze went to American Matt Kuchar, who tied the course record with a 63. He got off to a slow start with four consecutive pars, then played the next six holes in six under, a torrid stretch that included an eagle on the par-5 10th and sent him soaring up the leaderboard. Kuchar barely missed birdie putts on both 16 and 18 that could have put even more pressure on the leaders.

Kuchar, who just weeks before the Games admitted he wasn’t aware of the stroke-play format, said the Olympic experience was unlike any other tournament.

“I can’t describe to you the overwhelming sense of pride I feel to finish third,” he said. “Typically I wouldn’t say that.”

Bubba Watson carded a 70 to finish tied for eighth. His teammate Patrick Reed recorded the second-best round of the day, a 64 that moved him up to a tie for 11th.

Rickie Fowler concluded a disappointing Olympics with a 74 that left him tied for 37th.

The IOC hasn’t decided if the game will be included in the Olympic schedule after the 2020 Games in Tokyo. Watson, however, was confident the Rio tournament delivered on its promise.

“I don’t think they are going to have to lobby too hard, especially with this finish,” Watson said.

The women’s golf event begins on Wednesday. Unlike the men, almost all the top players are in Rio for the tournament.

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