Britain's Justin Rose won the first Olympic golf gold medal in 112 years as he held off Henrik Stenson to win the men's tournament at the Rio Games in a dramatic finish Sunday.

Rose triumphed on 16-under par with Open Champion Stenson finishing two behind on 14-under. The pair were level going up the par-five last but Stenson three-putted following a poor approach and Rose converted a short birdie putt to secure glory.

Matt Kuchar of the United States finished with a brilliant 63 to reach 13-under and claim bronze.

"That felt better than anything I've ever won," said Rose, 2013 US Open champion. "It was the best tournament I've ever done."

Rose said he was inspired by the other top athletes competing in various disciplines in Rio.

"That was my mentality today, to try and draw off other sports," he said, adding that he consciously visualized an image of US Olympic swim star Michael Phelps to motivate himself.

Golf's return to the Olympics was hampered by difficulty constructing the course and then several stars - including the top four in the world - electing to stay away out of health concerns.

But the players who did come to Brazil have almost universally spoke of their enjoyment at being part of the Olympic movement.

Rose in particular enjoyed a brilliant week, highlighted by a hole-in-one Thursday, stringing together rounds of 67, 69 and 65 to head into the final day with a one-shot advantage over Stenson, minus-12 to minus-11. It was soon apparent they exclusively would duel for gold and they were nip and tuck throughout the concluding round.

Stenson birdied 16 to draw the pair level on 15-under and with neither playing an impressive 17th, the battle for gold went to the 72nd hole.

Neither played perfectly from tee to green with their second shots on the long par-five leaving awkward chips. But while Stenson cracked under pressure, leaving his approach well short and subsequently three-putting for bogey, Rose stayed cool.

His chip checked right in front of the hole to leave a four-foot birdie putt for another four-under 67 he never looked like missing.

"It was always going to be tough and it came down to the last shots," Stenson said. "Justin was the better player today."

The Swede said that his spine gave him "a little grief" from the 13th onward on Sunday. "I don't think you can put it purely down to that," he said of his defeat for gold. "But it wasn't a helping thing."

Kuchar raised eyebrows before the tournament started when he appeared unaware it wasn't played in team format but had certainly figured out what he was doing by Sunday.

A flawless round included six birdies and an eagle for a 63, matching the best score of the week, to send him flying up the leaderboard and into bronze.

"I've never been so proud of a third place finish in my life," Kuchar said.

Belgium's Thomas Pieters finished fourth after a final day 65 and was left cursing Saturday's disastrous 77 which ruled him out of the medals.

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