Ten Olympians, including the gold, silver and bronze medallists, will tee it up at this week’s SMBC Singapore Open – a rarity in world golf.
Major winners Justin Rose of England and Sweden’s Henrik Stenson took the gold and silver respectively at the Rio Olympics in 2016 when golf returned to the Games after an 112-year absence while American Matt Kuchar, a multiple winner on the PGA Tour, claimed the bronze.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser tied for fifth spot while leading Japanese player Yuta Ikeda, who has won 21 times on his home tour, was (coincidentally enough) 21st equal.
Brazil’s Adilson da Silva, a regular on the Asian Tour, and four Asian players – Danny Chia (Malaysia), SSP Chawrasia (India), Miguel Tabuena (Philippines) and Siddikur Rahman (Bangladesh) – represented their country at the Olympic tournament.
The presence of so many Olympians headed by the three medallists is a coup for the SMBC Singapore Open and it further polishes its reputation, just two years after Spain’s Sergio Garcia arrived at Sentosa Golf Club as Masters champion.
Rose was enthusiastic about being a part of Team GB as golf made its Olympic return and less than an hour into his opening round on the Barra da Tijuca course in Rio, he had a hole-in-one at the 189-yard par-3 fourth hole – the first ever ace at the Games.
“When you’re the first to do anything no one can ever take that away from you,” he said. “That was definitely a cool moment.”
Rose went on to pip Stenson on the 18th hole of the final round after a titanic battle, for a memorable victory.
“Oh my God, that felt better than anything I’ve ever won,” said Rose, after becoming Olympic golf’s first champion since Canada’s George Lyon at St Louis in 1904.
American Kuchar stormed into bronze medal position with a best-of-the-day 63 that tied the Olympic course record.
“It’s the happiest I’ve ever been to finish third,” said Kuchar, who finished three strokes behind Rose. “I’m just bursting with pride right now.”
Malaysia’s Chia was pleased just to take part after a shoulder injury several years earlier had threatened to end his career.
“I feel like I’m still dreaming,” said Chia, who was the oldest member of Malaysia’s Olympic contingent at aged 43, at the time.
“It’s been a long journey, the last two years. From being not sure if I would ever play golf again to going to the Olympics. It’s just unbelievable.”