MARCUS FRASER unfortunately didn’t keep his winning form going but England’s Justin Rose was certainly ecstatic in being golf’s first Olympic Gold Medalist in more than a century.
Fraser, Rose and Open champion Henrik Stenson were in the final grouping playing in front of a sell-out crowd at the Reserva de Marapendi Golf Course in Rio.
The two Europeans battled it out all day while the 38 year old Aussie had four bogies on the front nine to fall behind but came home much stronger on the back with three birdies to finish tied fifth.
Rose, who began the day at 12-under, one in front of Stenson and three clear of Fraser, got up and down from the side of the green for a birdie on the 18th to seal his victory.
Stenson need to hole a 25 foot birdie chance on the last to force a playoff but three putted.
In the end is was Rose (67) on 6-under becoming the first Olympic golfing champion since 1904, Stenson (68) second on 14-under and a delighted Matt Kuchar (63) alone in third on 13-under. Fraser (72) was tied third at 8-under.
The medal obviously meant a lot to the 36 year old Rose, who punched the air and grabbed the front of his team shirt.
“Olympic gold medalist – It sounds absolutely incredible,” the 2013 US Open winner said. “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 – that I hoped my resumé one day read: ‘multiple major champion and Olympic gold medalist’ and if that happened then I’d be a very, very happy man. I pretty much just need the multiple major now, but for the most part, I’m there on that quote.
“The whole week, I’ve been so focused, really, to be honest with you. I’ve been so into it. I’ve been so up for it. I’ve been just so determined, I suppose, to represent Team GB as best as I could, and it was just the most magical week, it really was.”
After some reflection, Stenson wasn’t that unhappy with the silver medal.
“When you’re in good position to try and win, you always kind of feel a little disappointed afterwards. But at the same time, we said that all along in the Olympics, you’ve got some pretty good consolation prizes.
“I guess if you would have asked me before the week that I would leave here with a medal, I would have been pretty pleased and I managed to do that. I’m quite happy, I didn’t feel like I played my absolute best throughout the week but I played good enough to put myself in contention and that was my goal. Once I was up there, I played pretty well but I needed to play one or two shots better to win it today. “
Bronze medalist Kuchar ended up equalling the record 63 set by Fraser in the first round.
“It’s just an amazing week. It’s a boyhood dream come true. I keep expressing the feeling of sheer pride. I knew when I was out there playing that I was in third place. I certainly didn’t want to lose that but also wanted to keep pushing forward.
“While I was out there, playing that back nine, the sense of being an Olympic medalist really hit me. There were times I kind of had to back off a few times and regather my thoughts and composure to make sure I try to continue to hit good shots and keep making birdies.”
[quote]Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have a chance to be here, let alone mixing it with those guys over four rounds in such a big event. – Fraser[/quote]
Fraser led the tournament for the first two rounds with his opening 63-69 but didn’t keep it going with his weekend 72-72. He said it had been an incredible week that felt like a major championship.
“I probably learnt a lot about myself this week, to be honest,” Fraser said. “Not in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have a chance to be here, let alone mixing it with those guys over four rounds in such a big event. It’s pleasing. I just didn’t have much with me on the weekend. My game was pretty scrappy and I didn’t deserve to have a medal. I felt like I fought as hard as I could and it’s always nice to birdie the last. It leaves you a pretty nice taste in your mouth when you get on that plane tomorrow.
“There’s a lot of self-doubt there that I doubt whether I can do this. I think coming here doing it this week on this stage was pleasing. To finish fifth is a big plus for me.”
Fellow Aussie Scott Hend finished tied-39th after a closing even par 71.
It’s now onto the women’s event which begins Wednesday.
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