A host of withdrawals had damaged golf's Olympic credentials but Briton Justin Rose put on a show to boost the sport on its return to the Games. He edged out Sweden's Henrik Stenson amid high drama.
Golf's return to the Olympics has been dogged by controversy but heavyweights Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson helped restore some credibility after a thrilling finish, with Britain's Rose prevailing on the final hole.
After a plethora of pull-outs from top names blaming Zika but with other factors at play, golf's Olympic comeback after 112 years had got off to a very rocky start on a course built in a nature reserve to the fury of environmentalists.
But instead of a nobody winning amid mediocrity, major winners Rose and Stenson of Sweden conjured up one of the tightest climaxes so far in Rio. Rose was one shot ahead until a superb birdie by British Open champion Stenson on the 16th set up a nerve-jangling finale.
The Swede almost slipped up on the 17th but fortune favored the brave and the pair headed down the 18th dead level.
Stenson's third on the final hole went around 18 feet past the hole, while former US Open winner Rose's effort was a beauty which nestled by the cup. Stenson then missed his tricky return leaving Rose to triumph with a birdie.
He sealed Britain's 12th gold in Rio by finishing 16 under par and the way he punched the air with delight showed that, to the Briton at least, Olympic golf really matters. American Matt Kuchar picked up bronze.
After waiting since 1904 to get back on the Games schedule, golf defied the critics and gave us a wonderful ending. Perhaps those who stayed away such as Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth will wish they had made the trip to Brazil after all.
Golf's place in the Olympics beyond 2020 had been questioned given the high-profile withdrawals. But its death as an Olympic sport could have been greatly exaggerated, with TV executives loving a thrilling finale.