By Mark Harman, USGTF National Course Director
It was met with skepticism, and some of the top male players stayed away, but after it was all said and done, golf in the Olympics made what can only be described as a triumphant return. Gil Hanse’s course in Rio de Janeiro, site of the competition, did a masterful job in identifying the best player that week, Great Britain’s Justin Rose, and the action on the course was incredibly compelling as the question of who would win the first gold medal in golf in 112 years was answered.
By the third round, large galleries formed, and the final round was sold out. Television ratings in the U.S. were the highest since the Masters, outdrawing even the U.S. Open. Quite a statement for the health of the game of golf.
The United States’ Matt Kuchar finished third and captured the bronze medal with a final-round 63. Showing that he gets it, later he said he was never so happy to finish in third place in his entire life, and the sense of pride he felt was unmatched by any of his tour victories. You can be sure that Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, and others who chose to skip the event – thinking that it wasn’t worth their time (let’s be honest, the Zika virus was a convenient excuse) – are now regretting their decisions. Bubba Watson and Ricky Fowler also bought in completely, with Watson saying it was the greatest golf trip he ever took.
Not to be outdone, the women showed up in full force. Gerina Piller teared up when she talked about how much a gold medal would mean to her, and in the first round, nerves got the better part of her with two early bogeys until she steadied herself. Combined with Rose’s beaming demeanor at winning the gold, this shows how great a sporting event this already is, and will be for the forseeable future.
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