RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Jason Day only watched one hole of golf from the Olympics, but at least he picked the right hole.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson were never separated by more than a shot in the final round until Rose made birdie on the 18th hole to win the gold medal, with Matt Kuchar making a late run for 63 and the bronze.
“I didn’t watch any, not one shot, until the last hole,” Day said Monday evening in a conference call. “It was great to see Henrik and Justin duel it out. Kuch had an amazing run on the last day, and it looked like it was a very successful opening for golf to be back in the Olympics.
“Exciting stuff for those guys, and I’m sure they’re on Cloud 9 right now heading home.”
Day is the No. 1 player in the world, and among the top four who chose not to go to Rio. He at least will get one chance to play for his country this year. The Australian spoke Monday evening to promote the World Cup of Golf, to be played Nov. 24-27 at Kingston Heath in Melbourne. He and Adam Scott will be back to defend their title from 2013 at Royal Melbourne.
In some respects, it can help fill the void of missing out on playing for his flag.
And there is part of him that is eager to see what kind of reception he gets.
Day has not been back to Australia since he and Scott won the World Cup. Scott was a national hero in 2013 as the Masters champion, the first Australian in a green jacket. Day recalls waiting on a cab outside the Crown Casino when Scott walked by with his green jacket.
“All the cool things he got to do, go places and have certain dinners and celebrations in his name, the awards that he got, especially during the late part of the year for how well he played, it was pretty special to see,” Day said.
He returns as No. 1 in the world, the first Aussie to play at home as the world No. 1 since Greg Norman in 1997.
“Being an Australian that’s been No. 1 in the world back home playing in Australia, that’s a pretty cool moment to have,” Day said.
OLYMPIC GOLF: Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Matt Kuchar provided a compelling final round for golf’s return to the Olympics, and it showed in the ratings.
NBC and Golf Channel provided coverage of the final 1 hour, 37 minutes from Olympic Golf Course, with NBC picking up the final round when Matt Kuchar reached the 16th tee with an outside shot at winning the gold. Kuchar finished with a 63 and had to settle for a bronze. Rose and Stenson went to the final hole tied, and Rose won the gold medal with a pitch to 3 feet for the winning birdie.
NBC earned a 5.6 household rating with 8.8 million average viewers during that period. It was the highest-rated 90-minute window of golf in the final round this year behind only the Masters.
It was shown after synchronized swimming and before equestrian, which network officials believe attracted a younger audience and a higher percentage of women.
That’s the Olympic difference.
LAST CHANCE: Rickie Fowler headed from Rio to North Carolina to play in the Wyndham Championship, mostly because there are only two weeks left to get one of the top eight qualifying spots for the Ryder Cup (he’s at No. 12) and because of the FedEx Cup (he’s No. 30).
That’s a far better spot than some others.
The Wyndham Championship ends the regular season, with the top 125 advancing to the lucrative playoffs and, for many players, securing full cards for next season. On the bubble is Whee Kim, though being at No. 125 is reason to celebrate. He was at No. 154 until a tie for third last week in the John Deere Classic.
From Brett Stegmaier at No. 119 through Camilo Villegas at No. 150, only three players are not in the field at Sedgefield Country Club — Will Wilcox (No. 136), Padraig Harrington (No. 137) and Jamie Donaldson (No. 147).
Wilcox has a wrist injury and is planning to have surgery on Monday.
Harrington stayed in Rio for an extra week to take in the Olympics, and his job is secure next season because he won the Honda Classic in 2015.
Jimmy Walker is playing for the first time since his PGA Championship victory at Baltusrol. One noticeable absence is Russell Knox, who won the Travelers Championship two weeks ago and is No. 5 in the FedEx Cup. This was his last tournament to be eligible for Ryder Cup points, and the Scot is only 6.6 points behind the final spot in the European world points list. He now will have to hope to be a captain’s pick.
EUROPEAN CUT: The PGA Tour introduced a new acronym to golf — MDF — in 2008 with a policy to limit the field size for the final round. When more than 78 players make the cut, there is a 54-hole cut on Saturday to top 70 and ties. Those who miss that get an “MDF” — made the cut, did not finish.
The European Tour now is adopting a similar policy.
David Garland, director of tour operations for the European Tour, said the policy would start next season. It would follow the PGA Tour’s model, with those being cut after Saturday when more than 78 players make it to the weekend getting last-place official money.
There are a few differences. On the European Tour, the top 65 and ties advance to the weekend. And if more than 78 players make the cut, the 54-hole cut will be for top 72 and ties.
DIVOTS: If Olympic golf had included a team event by combining 72-hole scores of two players, Sweden would have won the gold at 20-under par, one shot ahead of the Americans’ second team (Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar). Britain (16 under) would have won the bronze by one shot over Spain. Teams would have been set before the competition instead of picking the Americans with the two highest scores. The highest-ranked Americans, Bubba Watson and Rickie Fowler, would have been 7 under. … Ten players at the Rio Games are playing this week, seven in the Wyndham Champion and three on the European Tour. That includes Thomas Pieters, the defending champion at the Czech Masters. … Miguel Angel Jimenez has lost the 54-hole lead in his last three starts on the PGA Tour Champions, including two majors. … International Golf Federation President Peter Dawson said more tournaments could be coming to Olympic Golf Course. One is likely to be on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. Another possibility is the Latin America Amateur Championship.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Three players in the top 10 of the FedEx Cup have yet to win a tournament this year.
FINAL WORD: “I feel like it resonated far wider than maybe my U.S. Open victory.” — Justin Rose after winning the gold medal in golf.