There are four chances every year to win a Major. But the Olympics only come along once every four years. So for every 16 Major winners from this year onwards, there is just one Olympic champion. That’s a pretty special achievement in itself, but you know you’ve done something truly historic when you win the first gold medal that’s been available in golf for 112 years. That’s exactly what Justin Rose achieved in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
There was never any doubt that the Englishman would be in Brazil to represent his country. He understood the significance of golf’s return to the greatest sporting stage on the planet, the incredible opportunities taking part would present to him and the history that was at stake for that one lucky and talented golfer who emerged victoriously. Rose did himself and Team GB proud – helping to lift his nation to second in the medals table and inspiring a new generation of potential golfers all across the globe.
And while skeptics might claim that gold doesn’t mean as much as a Major, who’s to say history won’t one day judge the Olympics with the same – or even greater – importance? After all, the Masters wasn’t seen as a Major the first few years it was played as a simple invitational tournament, and the Western Open was considered a Major in the pre-war era, so things change and the game evolves.
What’s clear is that golf is here to stay in the Olympics. It was the only event that sold out all its tickets in Rio, fans around the world – even those who aren’t already golfers – engaged with it, and the players who took part absolutely loved it.
To look back on Rio, we sat down with Justin Rose, who explained why winning Olympic gold was arguably the greatest achievement of his glittering career...
What does being an Olympic gold medallist feel like and mean?
Being an Olympic champion really surprised me in terms of what it means – not just in the world of golf, but the world of sport and with the general public. You just don’t realize how many people follow the Olympics and how much a gold medal resonates with them. My goal was to go to Rio and compete and treat it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Becoming an Olympian and supporting golf’s return to the Olympics was something I felt was going to be part of my legacy, but to come away as Olympic champion absolutely blew me away.
How important did you feel it was to golf and growing the game?
Golf would have been just fine without the Olympics, but the sport is all the better for being included. That was my mentality and I just wanted to be supportive of it and treat it as an opportunity to be a part of that return because it’s only every four years – that’s what separates it from Majors. No one can really guarantee where their game or health is going to be in four years’ time, so I wanted to grasp that opportunity to play.
Did the Olympic experience meet your expectations?
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