Rio Olympics 2016: Justin Rose's seven-year dream

Justin Rose
Justin Rose will tee off at 14:58 BST on Thursday alongside United States' Rickie Fowler and Venezuela's Johnattan Vegas

Justin Rose is revelling in becoming an Olympian and began targeting this week's Rio tournament in 2009, when the sport's return to the Games was first announced.

The 36-year-old Briton arrived early in Brazil to ensure he was part of last Friday's opening ceremony.

With his mother watching on in the crowd, it was an emotional experience for the 2013 US Open champion.

Rose remembers his late father Ken regaling him with tales of a visit to the Games and those stories helped give the golfer a perspective that stretches beyond the confines of his chosen sport.

"I'm sure he would have been very proud to see me walk out," Rose told BBC Sport.

"Walking into the Maracana Stadium in Brazil, there were 105,000 people all cheering and celebrating, all different nations with such a happy vibe in there, it was something I really wanted to make sure I was down here in Brazil for."

Justin Rose
Justin Rose is seeking to add an Olympic gold medal to the US Open title he won in 2013

Sitting in a Team GB t-shirt and shorts at the British base camp, Rose looks far removed from his usual cosseted surroundings on the PGA Tour and European Tour.

Golf has returned to the Olympics after a 112-year absence and the Englishman is relishing his new, different experience.

"Growing up, you never really thought of golf and Olympic gold in the same sentence," Rose said.

"But when it was announced, however many years ago, I've always been incredibly excited about the prospect and always really hoped my ranking would enable me to come and compete.

"The fact that was the case, then you get to be really excited about the opportunity to represent Team GB.

"With all the world's issues right now, to see so many different countries in one place and just co-existing with a smile on their face is so great to see," he added.

Rose believes he and his fellow British competitors - Danny Willett, Charley Hull and Catriona Matthew - have every right to their place at the biggest sporting party on the planet.

"We are just as worthy of being here as anybody else," he stated. "Anybody who gets to the top of their sport is worthy of their spot at the Olympics.

"Nothing comes easy here, no one is gifting you a spot at the Olympics."

Rose's wife Kate was a leading European artistic gymnast but her event was denied the Games recognition that would have allowed her the chance to satisfy her sporting ambitions.

This was another reason Rose - to the backdrop of withdrawals by other top players - was determined not to miss his opportunity.

"I would never have heard the last of it," he smiled. "If I win Olympic gold, half of it goes to her."

And Rose is convinced his experience in the athletes' village can benefit his own performance going forward.

"Very rarely are you in one place with so many like-minded people who are there to give 100 per cent and constantly better themselves to try and extract their peak performance on a given week," he said. "It's very inspiring."

Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy
Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Speith and Rory McIlroy opted to miss the Rio Olympics

This eye-opening new experience wasn't enough to lure world number one Jason Day, US Open champion Dustin Johnson, 2015 Masters and US Open winner Jordan Spieth and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy to Rio.

"They've all made their decisions for good reasons," Rose accepted. "And they are going to live with that decision.

"Hopefully they get the opportunity to do it again in 2020 in Tokyo and hopefully it's an opportunity they take. And hopefully it is something they regret because if they regret it, it means golf has been a success.

"And it's up to us guys who are here to evaluate it and go back and spread the word, assuming it's a great success."

With the clock ticking towards Brazil's Adilson Da Silva striking Thursday's historic first tee shot, the focus is switching from the absentees to the players who are in Rio.

Justin Rose posts on social media

Trawling through their social media, it is clear they share Rose's enthusiasm for the tournament and the prospect of landing a medal.

In Masters winner Willett and Open champion Henrik Stenson - who is the favourite - two of the year's four major champions are in Brazil.

Johnson opted out, while US PGA champion Jimmy Walker was not one of the four Americans to qualify via the world rankings for the 72-hole strokeplay event.

In most sports, the Olympics is the pinnacle but like tennis that is not the case with golf, where the Masters, US Open, Open and US PGA - the four long-established majors - all take precedence.

But, according to Rose, that should not detract from this week's event, nor golf's place in the Games.

"The major championships have centuries of history behind them and right now the Olympics doesn't have that in golf," the North Hants-raised player said.

"But I think it sits in a unique category all by itself. You can't quite compare it to majors and nor should you, I don't think.

"You shouldn't say it is more important or less important, I think it is just equally as (significant) but sits in a different column.

"Justin Rose major champion and Olympic golf medallist would sound incredibly good to me."

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