Three rounds are in the books at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and we have a pretty great storyline for Sunday.
It appears as if Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, Ryder Cup teammates for years, will duel for the first Olympic gold medal to be handed out in the sport of golf for 112 years. There will be other contenders, for sure, but it's tough to see anyone usurping both of those players over the final 18 holes.
Rose is 12 under, followed closely by Stenson at 11 under. Only Australian Marcus Fraser at 9 under is within four shots of Stenson. Rose and Stenson both set themselves up to win the first gold medal at this event since 1904 with low scores over the first few days.
"It was tough out there today," Rose told Golf Channel after shooting 65 in Round 3. "Some of the course setup was pretty hard today." Rose made it look pretty easy with four birdies and two eagles. "I felt like today could be a day to separate," he added later.
Stenson agreed with Rose's assessment after following up his 66-68 start with another 68 on Saturday.
"It was a tough afternoon again," Stenson told Golf Channel. "A couple of really long holes out there, and it wasn't getting any easier as the day moved on. [Tomorrow is] certainly a new day. The golf ball needs to be taught tomorrow what to do."
Rose and Stenson know each other's games as well as anyone in this field. They went 3-0-0 as partners at the 2014 Ryder Cup and were a combined 394 under par that week (approximately). Rose is a few years younger than Stenson, but they have both dominated at the top of two different tours for most of the last decade and a half. Of all the outcomes we could have gotten this week, this one is definitely in the top 10.
"It's like all the other sports [at the Olympics]," said Rose in his press conference. "You work really hard to get into the final. I have the opportunity, and tomorrow is going to be fun."
"I know Justin really well," Stenson told Golf Channel. "He's my Ryder Cup partner and friend. It's not going to be anything different. We both want the same thing. It's going to come down to who plays the best. When you're playing well, you expect to be up there. I managed to do that this week."
No matter what you have thought of the Olympics so far, it will be cool to see these two go at it for a prize we've never seen anyone in this sport hoist.
"It compares [to other big tournaments I've led], especially as it's only once every four years," Rose told Golf Channel. "It's a moment you want to take advantage of."
Here's a look at the leaderboard after 54 holes in Rio.
1. Justin Rose (-12): My favorite stat from earlier this week is that Rose has won tournaments on five different continents. This would make it six. Rose was sublime on Saturday with a 65 in the third round to jump to the top of the leaderboard. It never seems to fail that big-time players rise to the occasion over the course of 72 holes in a given week. You just never know when or how it's going to happen.
2. Henrik Stenson (-11): Stenson struggled for much of the day on Saturday but willed himself to a 68 to set up that aforementioned showdown on Sunday with Rose. He said he's not thinking of his match with Phil Mickelson at Royal Troon earlier this year, but the rest of us will be.
3. Marcus Fraser (-9): Poor Fraser. You know he was thinking about gold before getting steamrolled by Stenson and Rose on Friday and Saturday. He has to have bronze on his mind now as he likely doesn't have much chance of catching two major champions over the final 18 holes. He shot a pretty poor 1-over 72 on Saturday.
T4. Bubba Watson (-6): Watson said early in the week that he would lay up late on Sunday if he had a bronze medal on the line. We might get to see if he's true to his word. Watson should be one better probably if not for this insane-looking half stroke from about 35 feet away. He said after shooting a 67 on Saturday that some mud came off his putter and he was trying to stop his movement.
T4. Emiliano Grillo (-6): Grillo went from not having his clubs and thinking he might have to sit out earlier this week to potentially bringing Argentina a medal. I would be surprised to see anyone from this group catch the leaders, but if some one does, I'm betting on the fiery Grillo.
T4. David Lingmerth (-6): Sweden has a real chance to take gold and silver in this event on Sunday after Lingmerth put himself into position with a 68 in the third round. He's one of only a handful of golfers who has been under par in every round this week.
- T7. Matt Kuchar (-5)
- T14. Rickie Fowler (-3)
- T14. Danny Willett (-3)
- T22. Sergio Garcia (-2)
- T33. Martin Kaymer (E)
- T36. Patrick Reed (+1)
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