Irishman Seamus Power equalled his lowest round of the week but his bid for a podium finish faded on Reserva de Marapendi’s back nine as Britain’s Justin Rose claimed golf’s first Olympic gold medal for 112 years.
Power, ranked 295 in the world, fired a closing 67 in Rio having got his final round off to a flyer with five birdies in his first six holes to go out in 30 for his first nine.
A sixth birdie at the 10th hole moved the West Waterford golfer into a share of fourth with Emiliano Grillo but when the Argentine bogeyed his third hole, Power looked primed to push on for a medal position, trailing only overnight leader Rose, Open champion Henrik Stenson and Australia’s Marcus Fraser.
Alas for Power, his Olympic dream, ignited only after the pre-Games withdrawals of higher ranked Irishmen Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell, hit the skids with a bogey at 14 followed by a double at the next hole, the Irishmen eventually settling for a tie for 15th at five under.
Padraig Harrington’s challenge also came up short. The three-time major champion opened up at five under but shot a two-over 73 to claim a share of 21st, 13 shots adrift of gold medalist Rose.
The Briton edged out Stenson in a thrilling final-round battle, carding a closing 67 to finish 16 under par and two shots ahead of Ryder Cup partner Stenson, with American Matt Kuchar claiming bronze after a superb 63.
The outcome was only decided on the 72nd hole when Rose pitched to three feet to set up a decisive birdie and Stenson missed his attempt from long range, the 40-year-old Swede also missing the return putt for par.
That left the stage clear for Rose to tap-in and seal victory before punching the air in delight, the 36-year-old having been one of the major supporters of golf’s return to the Games while more than 20 of his fellow professionals had opted out of competing.
A month after Stenson had won a thrilling duel with Phil Mickelson at Troon, the Olympics also effectively became a match-play contest between two of the six major champions in the 60-man field.
Rose took a one-shot lead over Stenson into the final round and there was never more than a stroke between them until the end.
“It feels absolutely incredible,” Rose 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 - I hope my resume one day read ‘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. I’ve been so into it. 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.”
Asked about his battle with Stenson after the pair won all three of their matches together at Gleneagles in 2014, Rose added: “I just said today that I had to out-Stenson Stenson.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get much from him at all. Obviously the bogey at the last only came because he had to force the putt in.
“But he is unbelievable. He’s relentless and a great player and I can’t wait to be on the same team as him in the Ryder Cup.”
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