For the first time in over 100 years, golf is back in the Olympic games. But it hasn’t been without drama.
The world’s top four players — Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy — all decided to pass on golf’s reintroduction into the Games, all initially citing health and family concerns for not wanting to make the trip. Other top players that qualified were more candid. Australia’s Adam Scott said he just didn’t care about golf in the Olympics. Rory McIlroy reversed fields a bit at his now-famous press conference at the Open Championship, saying he’d only be watching the events that ‘really matter’ in Rio and ignoring golf.
Yet despite so many of the game’s stars passing, the men’s golf event might still include some of the biggest stars in all of Rio. Few events can provide American fans the recognizable names they know from year-in, year-out competition like Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, and Sergio Garcia. If nothing else, the men’s golf event still has the benefit of name recognition from competitors being on national TV every week that some other competitions aren’t afforded.
Those bigger names have already seemingly taken a liking to Rio -- and the golf through the weekend might be set to redeem some of the criticism of the shotgun wedding between the IOC and the sport’s governing bodies that led to the summer’s chaotic schedule. The Gil Hanse-designed Olympic golf course has been praised by golf media members and players on the grounds — and Rio’s winter winds should make for a challenging set-up that will test players, and could make for a higher finishing score than any major championship this season. The weekend will also feature plenty of cast members that might play a supporting role in the drama — like the many Capybaras and other Brazilian wildlife that will roam the newly-built course.
While the four Americans (Fowler, Watson, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar) will be among the favorites to take home the gold, none are among the top two betting favorites in the event. With the windy track inspiring some memories of links golf, Sweden’s in-form Open Champion Henrik Stenson and Spain’s Sergio Garcia are holding top odds to take home the gold medal this Sunday.
Final round results and highlights
Justin Rose is your first Olympic golf gold medalist in 112 years, edging Henrik Stenson in what was a fantastic Sunday duel in Rio. Those two were the favorites at the start of the week and delivered on Sunday, going back-and-forth at the top of the leaderboard. The two came to the final hole even at 15-under, and Rose got it done with an incredible chip that put the pressure on Stenson.
Matty Kuchar did his part getting the USA to the medal stand, matching the lowest round of the week with a 8-under 63. Kuchar had an outside chance at even getting silver his dramatic charge up the board, something that seemed impossible given where he started the day. It was a final round he'll remember forever and now he's got a bronze for the USA to commemorate it.
Third round results and highlights
Wooooo, we have ourselves a tournament! Business picked up on Saturday at the Rio Olympics golf course, where Justin Rose shot into the 54-hole lead. Rose was one of the favorites at the start of the week. He's a former major winner with tons of game who is always contending at the biggest events in golf.
Right behind him in second? Henrik Stenson, the favorite at the top of the week and arguably the best player in the world right now. The event is made larger by their presence and potential 1-2 duel on Sunday for the first golf gold medal in 112 years. Some other highlights from round three.
Bubba Watson hit, what turned out to be a duff on one of the weirdest putts you will ever see.
That weird putt aside, Bubba played well though. And so did Rickie Fowler, who posted the second best round of the week with a 7-under 64. That now has him in an outside position to possibly medal, which seemed impossible at the 18 and 36-hole marks.
On top of four of the big names playing well, Saturday also featured a barrage of hole-outs during the easiest scoring conditions of the week. The hole-outs and tops shots here.
And South Africa's Jaco Van Zyl joined Rose with the second ever Olympic hole-in-one.
Second round results and highlights
Marcus Fraser stayed on top of the leaderboard after a sluggish day 2 at the Olympics golf course. Fraser was pushed late by Thomas Pieters, but the Aussie, who was the fifth alternate from his country, held him off to stay a shot in front at the midpoint.
Henrik Stenson is still right there, the favorite getting hot with putter from some absurd distances early in his round to stay on the pace.
Bubba Watson made a nice little charge on Friday and is still in the hunt for a medal after an underwhelming opening round. A hole-out from the fairway on his third hole of the day jumpstarted his 4-under round a bit.
David Lingmerth probably hit one of the better duffs of the Olympics so far, trying to blast one of the native areas outside the ropes and barely advancing it.
First round results and highlights
Marcus Fraser of Australia is the opening round pacesetter, going out in the early portion of the draw to post an 8-under 63. Fraser is an accomplished Aussie but not one of the headliners this week. He said after the round that it would be one of the more memorable days of his career.
Right behind him is Henrik Stenson, the hottest player in the world and the favorite this week. Stenson is 5-under and set up perfectly to drape a gold medal around his claret jug come Sunday. Some other highlights from the opening round:
Justin Rose recorded the first ever ace in Olympics history.
Rickie Fowler, and most of Team USA, was uninspiring or simply ugly in round 1.
Bubba Watson had one bad hole and finished with a disappointing day down the board.
Rickie's round opened with a horrendous 4-putt that just set everything off in the wrong direction.
60 players representing 34 countries over 6 continents will hit the links starting at 6:30 AM ET Thursday morning, seeking golf’s first Olympic medals in over 100 years. The International Golf Federation, the new governing body built to oversee the event, built the field using the Official World Golf Rankings, as they stood the week prior to the Open Championship. The field was filled by descending through the OWGR rankings, filling the event with a maximum of two players per nation until the event total of 60 was reached. However, there was one exception to that rule. If a country’s top two players accepting the invitation resided inside the OWGR top 15, that nation was granted two additional spots in the field — if those two players were also inside the OWGR top 15. That exception only applied to the USA, and it’s how Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar are in the event after Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson dropped out. For context, Phil Mickelson didn’t qualify despite ranking ahead of both Reed and Kuchar in the OWGR today — he was behind both and outside the top 15 the week before the Open.
The Golf Course
No competitor in the field, even Brazil’s Adilson da Silva, will have much of a knowledge advantage at the brand new Gil Hanse-designed Olympic track. Only 9 players have ever played the golf course in a competitive situation previously, and none of those individuals are in the field this week. Most players saw the course for the first time when arriving on the grounds.
But it’s a course that should remind those at home something of an Open Championship style of setup. Despite those recollections, it takes its inspirations mostly from the Sandbelt-style courses in Australia — and fittingly so, it was built on a former sand quarry. There’s not a tree on the golf course, and there’s no true roughs anywhere at all. Once a ball runs through the fairway, they’ll find themselves in one of the areas of native grasses and sand that originally populated the area prior to the course’s construction.
Hanse opted for few mid-length par fours for the players that won’t let the track just be nothing but drivers and pitching wedges and short irons for the players. With a few short and drivable par-4s — and then longer ones that will require full irons, there’s plenty of room on the course for volatility. The finishing three holes will be the most memorable part of the track. A drivable par-4, a wedge par-3, and a long-but-reachable, risk-reward par-5 will create for a dramatic finishing stretch that should generate excitement at the finish if things are close.
2016 Rio Olympics golf coverage for Saturday
All times Eastern
Events: Men's competition, 6:30 a.m.
TV: Golf Channel, 6:30 a.m. to approx. 3 p.m.
NBC Olympics simulcast stream at 6:30 a.m.
NBC Olympics featured holes stream, Nos. 1, 17-18
Marquee tee times
There's no cut at the Olympics That would be silly with just 60 players at the start of the event. Everyone plays 72 holes and on the weekend, they are grouped according to score like any other golf event. The field will still go out in groups off three off No. 1 tee. The final round is set up for a brilliant 1-2 battle in the anchor tee time, featuring Rose and Stenson. Here are some of the marquee groups playing on Saturday morning in Rio (full tee sheet here):
7:22 a.m.: -- Scott Hend, Patrick Reed, Jaco Van Zyl
7:33 a.m.: -- Martin Kaymer, Danny Lee, Hao Tong Li
8:17 a.m. -- S.S.P. Chawrasia, Soren Kjeldsen, Sergio Garcia
8:44 a.m.: -- Danny Willett, Bernd Wiesberger, Byeong Hun An
8:55 a.m.: -- Cheng Tsung Pan, Rickie Fowler, Rodolfo Cazaubon
9:06 a.m. -- Gregory Bourdy, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
9:17 a.m. -- Mikko Ilonen, Padraig Harrington, Matt Kuchar
9:28 a.m. -- Bubba Watson, David Lingmerth, Emiliano Grillo
9:39 a.m. -- Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Marcus Fraser
Leaderboard & Scores
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