It’s easy now in the afterglow to believe that golf was destined to deliver at the Olympics in Rio.
Make it about the game and stand back.
When all the other stuff was put aside – the players who weren’t there, the security concerns, the rough reality of Rio and a summer schedule that felt like an overstuffed calzone – the game and the gold fit like old friends.
It will be four years before golf and the Games get together again in Tokyo but it will be different because of what happened over two weeks in Brazil. It will be better – and golf’s success was among the happiest revelations in Rio.
Henrik Stenson brought his silver medal to the Barclays at Bethpage Black, bringing it out for friends and fans to see it the way new parents keep photos of their baby on their cell phones now.
Justin Rose returned to the U.K. with a gold medal and a profile that felt larger than after his U.S. Open victory.
“I think the Olympic gold medal has reached a much wider audience. I feel the attention that it receives has been huge outside of the game of golf. I think that it sort of resonated with a lot more people,” Rose said.
“I believe that it was the biggest TV audience golf has ever had in the U.K. I know that the ratings were pretty good over here, as well. I think that it’s captured the imagination of people who don’t play golf because it’s an Olympic sport.”
Rose and Stenson were critical to golf’s success in Rio, two of the top players in the world locked in a Sunday duel with gold on the line. Matt Kuchar’s closing 63 added spice to the story that frankly might not have resonated the same way had Marcus Fraser and Thomas Pieters taken the gold and silver.
Golf needed a bang and got it.
When Inbee Park won the women’s gold, it was another cherry on top, earning her a visit with the South Korean president upon her arrival home.