By Liana B. Baker and Andrew Downie
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Britain's Justin Rose birdied the final hole to win the Olympic golf tournament on Sunday, the first gold medallist in a sport that returned to the Olympics in Rio after a 112-year absence.
Rose, who scored a hole in one on his first day, carded a final round four-under-par 67 to beat Henrik Stenson by two strokes in a competition that went all the way to the final putts.
The overnight leader was neck-and-neck with Stenson throughout much of the round but he hit a lovely approach shot to within feet of the pin at the final hole.
Stenson put his long putt past the hole and missed his next shot to card a bogey six. Rose, whose only major victory was the U.S. Open in 2013, birdied and then punched the air and grabbed the British logo on his shirt to the acclaim of the crowd. The United States' Matt Kuchar, who was only included after Jordan Spieth pulled out, finished one stroke behind Stenson to win bronze. Spieth and the other three men in the world's top four withdrew from the Olympics, some of them citing concerns over the Zika virus.
Rose and Stenson know each other well from the European tour and the Ryder Cup, where they played one of the most scintillating rounds in that competition's history in 2014, together carding 12 birdies in 16 holes in a four-ball win over Kuchar and Bubba Watson, the two U.S. golfers who finished third and eighth on Sunday.
Few people play golf in Brazil and the par 71 course was built especially for the Olympics on environmentally sensitive land.
It is due to be turned into a public course, one of just a handful in the South American nation.
(Editing by Ed Osmond and Bill Rigby)