By Larry Fine
FARMINGDALE, New York (Reuters) – Justin Rose, still feeling the glow of winning Olympic golf gold at the Rio Games, says he hopes the experience will carry him on a strong run after claiming a prize he considers “at the top”.
Rose prevailed in Rio in a tight, final-round duel with British Open champion Henrik Stenson and the Briton said the reaction to his victory has been overwhelming.
“The whole experience…exceeded my expectations and certainly winning has blown me away in terms of the reach that it has and the global audience that it has,” Rose told reporters at Bethpage Black, where The Barclays will kick off the FedExCup playoffs on Thursday.
“I’ve really noticed a difference from people’s reactions.”
Even as he was shuttled by golf cart to the media interview room, New York fans recognised the Englishman and shouted congratulations to him along the way.
“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,” he said.
Rose, 36, said he felt the impact of his Rio achievement with all the media attention paid to him the past week and a more personal affirmation at home.
“Leo, my boy, he never really let’s on that he’s that proud of me or let’s on that he’s that excited about golf and some of the trophies I’ve been able to bring home and this one meant something a little bit different to him,” said 2013 U.S. Open champion Rose.
“He was probably wearing it more than me for the first couple days that I was home. Just to see him excited about it made it even more special for me.”
Rose limited himself to four tournaments between May’s Players Championship and the Olympics, nursing a back injury, but feels fit and fresh heading into a busy end of the season with the FedExCup and the Ryder Cup filling the final weeks.
“Obviously I feel confident with my game. It’s the first time in a while I’ve been in contention and to put it away was a great feeling,” Rose said about his Olympic triumph. “I’m beginning to putt well and beginning to be comfortable.”
After playing for pride and patriotism in Rio, Rose is now gearing up for a crack at the $10 million bonus prize for topping the list in the FedExCup playoffs.
“Hopefully I can put a run together. Shouldn’t be one-and-done,” he said.
Rose looked forward to the upcoming challenges, but said there was something special about the Olympics – right down to the medal.
“It’s much easier to travel with than a normal trophy. You can just kind of slip it in your pocket and then carry on,” he said.
Rose said the feel of the event was somewhere between a major and the Ryder Cup, and something peers who decided to skip the Rio Games will probably want to check out in Tokyo in 2020.
“It was just a unique tournament. That’s why I can’t compare it to anything else. For me it’s right up there with anything I’ve achieved in the game of golf, but kind of lives in a different world,” he said.
“I kind of see it at the top.”
Rose said some players have asked to see the medal.
“Maybe it’s something that I can keep in the golf bag or pop in the locker or something. It’s a unique and iconic thing, Olympic gold.
“It’s definitely an iconic piece of hardware. It does capture a lot of people’s imagination and they are excited to see it and feel it and hold it.”
(Editing by Andrew Both)