Golf became an Olympic sport in the second Olympic Games that took place in Paris in 1900. Back then there were only 12 competitors from four countries with Charles Sands winning gold after a 36 hole stroke play tournament. It was all change four years later in St Louis when 36 holes of stroke play served as just the qualifier with the top 32 players going into a match play tournament. Each match took place over 36 holes and there were no days off so George Lyon of Canada very much deserved his gold medal after playing 12 rounds of golf in six days.
Those two tournaments, plus a women’s tournament in 1900, were the last time that golf would feature at the Olympics for over 100 years. In that time a whole host of arguments were put forward and countered about whether professional golfers, who had many bigger tournaments to aim for, should compete in the Olympics. The argument was only settled in 2009 when the International Olympic Committee announced that golf would return for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
|2021||Kasumigaseki Country Club||Xander Schauffele|
|2016||Olympic Golf Course||Justin Rose|
2021: Xander Schauffele
Xander Schauffele has a phenomenal record in major championships without making it over the line. He showed at Kasumigaseki Country Club that his lack of majors is nothing to do with his mental fortitude. Schauffele came out on top of a very competitive renewal of the Olympics golf tournament to claim gold.
Schauffele was the bookies’ favourite to win on the final day of action but his overnight lead was erased by Rory Sabbatini who was on a tear. Even the most sceptical golfers at Tokyo 2020 had been won over by their Olympic experience and all were giving everything they had in the quest for a medal. It took a moment of brilliance from Schauffele to finally get the win. His golden moment came with an incredible approach shot on the 17th hole which set up the birdie he needed to win by one shot.
Sabbatini secured a highly impressive silver for his adoptive country of Slovakia but the most drama came in the fight for third. Rory McIlroy, one of seven men in the playoff for bronze, said that he’d never worked so hard to finish in third place before. He was unable to do enough to win the medal which eventually went to CT Pan of Chinese Taipei.
2016: Justin Rose
The build-up to golf’s return to the Olympics was largely negative. Big-name golfers were queuing up to announce that their reasons for not competing in Rio de Janeiro but those who shunned the opportunity were quickly rueing that decision. Those who made the trip thoroughly enjoyed their time in the Olympic Village, participation in the opening ceremony and the chance to compete for their countries. It was Justin Rose who enjoyed himself most in the end, winning the first men’s Olympic gold medal for 112 years.
The omens were good for Rose very early on. He became the first player to make a hole in one in the Olympics with a sweetly struck seven iron on his fourth hole of the tournament (he would later give the ball to gymnast and Team GB teammate Nile Wilson).
Rose built on that strong start to put himself in pole position with a one-shot lead going into the final round. Holding onto that lead would not be easy though as he was locked into a head to head battle with his good friend and Ryder Cup teammate Henrik Stenson. The two stars of European golf were only separated after an excellent chip shot from Rose on the 18th earned him the gold with Stenson winning silver and Matt Kuchar rounding off the medal roster with bronze.