Golf finale in Rio even prompted Rory McIlroy to tune in - Justin Rose
Published 15/08/2016 | 17:36
Justin Rose has revealed that golf's successful return to the Olympics even prompted Rory McIlroy to change his mind and watch the thrilling climax in Rio.
McIlroy was one of more than 20 top players to withdraw from the Games, the 27-year-old initially citing concerns over the Zika virus but later admitting that major championships remained the "pinnacle" of the sport and he would only watch "the stuff that matters" in the Olympics.
But after securing golf's first Olympic gold medal in 112 years by beating Open champion Henrik Stenson in a thrilling duel at Reserva de Marapendi, one of the many congratulatory messages Rose received was from Ryder Cup team-mate McIlroy.
"I did get one from Rory. Absolutely," Rose said. "He said he was very, very proud and he said he was pulling for me. He said he could see how much it meant to me and congratulated me.
"He was very complimentary and obviously he watched. He made the point that he really wants golf to succeed as an Olympic sport. He has some of his own opinions that are very personal to him and that's fine, but as a whole he's very, very much behind golf succeeding in the Olympics.
" All the guys that missed out probably made their decision for good reasons and they probably persuaded themselves it was a good decision, but I think they're going to have sat back and realised what a successful event this was.
"They're all great competitors and to be sitting at home watching other guys getting the glory is not going to sit well with them. They want experiences like this and they're going to have to wait four years. That's what makes this special. It just doesn't come around next week and I'll have another go.
"It's an opportunity that comes around so rarely and I'm certainly happy it's fallen on my plate. I certainly targeted it and went after it and therefore feel really proud of it, but it's an opportunity that hopefully they're going to take in 2020."
Rose was close to tears as he described how much his victory meant to his seven-year-old son Leo, who he was supposed to take to see Chelsea play West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening.
"Obviously I'm going to miss that but I'll make it up to him," the 36-year-old added. " He was so excited. I've never seen my little boy in tears, and I might start crying myself.
"I've never seen it resonate so much with him. He's just beginning to understand what sport is all about. He went to a little football camp this last week and he got a medal, and he said to me 'Right dad, I've got my medal it's time for you to get yours'.
"He was actually crying when I phoned him and I've never seen that in him before, and that was very, very special."
Rose had fully embraced the Olympic experience by watching numerous other sports and walking in the opening ceremony, after which he shared a bus journey back to the athletes' village with Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
Nine days later, both he and Murray were Olympic gold medallists after Murray battled past Juan Martin Del Potro in the men's tennis final.
" Nigel Tilley, who is the GB physio, bumped into Andy at the village last night and he said that Andy had watched my last hole before going onto the court, so it was cool that I was able to watch his last two games," Rose added.
"If you look at Team GB's tally of medals, it's amazing for a relatively small country to be doing so well on the medal count. Every time I see a medal go up on my app I feel proud of the wider team and that's what makes it different and special. B eing part of the five golds won on Sunday is definitely something that I am very, very proud of."
Although golf will feature in Tokyo in 2020, every sport's place in the Olympic programme from 2024 will be reviewed in September 2017, with television and media coverage an important consideration for the IOC.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach attended the final round on Sunday and International Golf Federation president Peter Dawson was delighted with what they both saw.
" We had one of the best golf events I've ever been involved with on many levels," Dawson said. "Given all of the history of getting golf into the Olympics, getting the golf course built and so on, I thought the spirit in which it was played, the intensity of the competition, the crowds, just the general good fun atmosphere was unique.
"It's wonderful for our sport and the IOC members that I've spoken to and people involved in the Olympic family are all very, very complimentary indeed."