Olympics: Justin Rose edges Sweden's Henrik Stenson for first golf gold since 1904

Justin Rose of Great Britain reacts after sinking his final putt to win the gold medal AT the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday (Aug 14).
Justin Rose of Great Britain reacts after sinking his final putt to win the gold medal AT the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday (Aug 14).PHOTO: EPA

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Britain's Justin Rose outduelled Sweden's Henrik Stenson in a tension-packed final-round thriller Sunday to win the first Olympic golf gold medal in 112 years at the Rio Games men's tournament.

Rose pitched the ball 18 inches from the cup on the par-5 18th hole and sank the birdie putt to win gold, completing a four-under par 67 final round to finish 72 holes on 16-under 268.

"Oh my God. That felt better than anything I've ever won. It was the best tournament I've ever done," Rose said.

"Coming up with that last pitch when I needed it was magical." Stenson closed with a bogey to take the silver on 270, one stroke ahead of US bronze medallist Matt Kuchar.

"It was always going to be tough and it came down to the last shots. Justin was the better player today," Stenson said. "He started one ahead and it came down to the last shots. I didn't play my best."

An event dimmed by the decisions of more than 20 players to stay away, including world number one Jason Day of Australia and the entire world top four, provided plenty of excitement and spectacular shotmaking as the gold hung on a knife's edge all day.

"It felt like a cross between a golf tournament and a carnival," Rose said. "It was unique, incredible."

Just a month after fifth-ranked Stenson won his first major title at last month's British Open in a final-day battle with American Phil Mickelson, he found himself locked in a similar fight with 12th-ranked Rose, the 2013 US Open champion.

At the par-5 18th, Stenson was shy of the green with his approach while Rose was left of the green with bunkers between, the gold fight down to a pitch and putt contest.

Stenson's ball hit the green and spun well back from the cup.

Rose followed and pitched the ball 18 inches from the hole. Stenson ran his 22-foot birdie attempt eight feet past the hole, then missed his comeback putt for par and settled for bogey and a round of 68.

Seconds later, Rose tapped in for the victory, raising his right fist into the air and then using it to tap the Team GB logo on his shirt over his heart.

Kuchar emerged from a host of contenders to take the last podium spot by firing a 63, matching the Olympic record set in round one by Australian Marcus Fraser.

The stroke-play last round felt more like a match-play showdown just as it was in 1904 when Canadian George Lyon took the prior Olympic crown.

A bogey by Rose at 13 dropped him one stroke behind Stenson, the 36-year-old Englishman finding a bunker with his approach and missing a six-foot par putt.

Rose found a greenside bunker at the par-3 14th and blasted out to 14 feet while Stenson made a poor pitch from off the green and missed a 20-foot par putt. When Rose sank his tense par putt, they were deadlocked again at 14 under.

Rose dropped his approach six feet from the cup at 15 and made the birdie putt to reclaim a one-shot lead, then barely missed a 30-foot birdie effort at 16, only to have Stenson calmly sink a four-foot birdie putt to pull level at 15 under.

Both parred 17 to set up the last-hole decider.

Kuchar, ranked 20th, birdied four of the last five holes on the front nine and began the back side with a 13-foot eagle putt to reach 11 under.

A 12-foot birdie putt at 15 closed Kuchar's grasp around a bronze medal and a tap-in birdie at the par-3 17th left him only a shot from silver by the end.