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Rose hits historic ace, Aussie leads as golf returns to Olympics

AFP logoAFP 12-08-2016 Emmanuel Dunand
Britain's Justin Rose competes in the men's individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course on August 11, 2016 © Provided by AFP Britain's Justin Rose competes in the men's individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course on August 11, 2016

Britain's Justin Rose made the first hole-in-one in Olympic history Thursday as golf ended a 112-year Games absence with some dazzling shotmaking, an unheralded leader and some high-ranked also-rans.

Australian Marcus Fraser, who only became an Olympian after four higher-ranked countrymen declined, fired an eight-under-par 63 for a three-stroke lead over British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Canada's Graham DeLaet.

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion who is ranked 12th, blasted his tee shot at the par-three fourth hole 188 yards into the cup for the first ace in Olympic history on a windy day at the links-style layout.

Fraser, ranked 90th, birdied five of the first six holes and four more on the back nine after feeling nervy at the start.

"This is probably one of the best rounds of golf I've ever played," Fraser said. "I was a little jumpy off the first tee. To be able to manage that and go around and play the way I did was a real confidence booster."

Australia's Marcus Fraser tees out of the 11th during the men's individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course on August 11, 2016 © Provided by AFP Australia's Marcus Fraser tees out of the 11th during the men's individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course on August 11, 2016

Rose, a 36-year-old Englishman ranked 12th in the world, shared fourth with France's Gregory Bourdy, German Alex Cejka, Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello and Belgium's Thomas Pieters. Rose won the most recent of his 19 career titles last October at Hong Kong.

Several big names stumbled. Eighth-ranked Rickie Fowler was on 75 with fellow American Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion ranked sixth, on 73 and their 14th-ranked compatriot Petrick Reed on 72.

Fraser has won three European Tour titles, most recently last February in Malaysia, and played in 12 majors, his best showing a share of 20th at last year's British Open.

"Getting that ball out of the hole was really special, to shoot 63 in the first round golf is back in the Olympics," Fraser said.

"At the moment I've got the Olympic record. That's pretty cool. I hope it lasts all week," Fraser said.

Canada's Graham DeLaet competes in the men's individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course on August 11, 2016 © Provided by AFP Canada's Graham DeLaet competes in the men's individual stroke play at the Olympic Golf course on August 11, 2016

Fraser, 38, had no birdie putt of 10 feet or more. He made bogey at the second after a tee shot into the bunker but birdied the next four holes.

"It felt like I needed to get off to a fast start," Fraser said. "It was good I did."

Fraser wouldn't have had a sniff at the Olympics without the controversial Rio withdrawals of top-ranked Jason Day, world number eight Adam Scott, 48th-rated Mark Leishman and 87th-rated Matt Jones over such issues as Zika, scheduling and safety.

"I'm glad they decided not to come," Fraser said. "I really want to be here. At the same time, I have to respect the decisions they made not to come."

Fraser made the choice to bring wife Carlie and kids Archie, 7, and Lily, 5, and share the Olympic experience with his family.

"It's something I'll really look back on later in life and really appreciate," he said.

DeLaet, trying to match countryman George Lyon's 1904 victory in the most recent prior Olympic golf event, felt the tension.

Officials and fans watch Brazilian Adilson da Silva hit the first Olympic golf stroke in 112 years, on August 11, 2016 © Provided by AFP Officials and fans watch Brazilian Adilson da Silva hit the first Olympic golf stroke in 112 years, on August 11, 2016

"I haven't been nervous like this on the first tee at a tour event in a really long time," DeLaet said. "Playing for the flag is a little bit different than playing for cash or ranking points. This week is just a little bit more special."

A field of 60 chases a gold medal, and berths in next year's majors, over 72 holes of stroke play on a 6,245-yard par-71 layout that has burrowing owls, a crocodile, the croc-like reptiles caiman and capybaras, the world's largest rodents.

Brazil's Adilson da Silva, a 44-year-old journeyman ranked 288th, hit the opening tee shot down the first fairway to complete golf's journey back into the Olympic lineup.outh Korean An Byeong-Hun made the first bogey in golf's return, three-putting from six feet for a six at the opening hole, but then followed with the first birdie by making a four-foot putt at the par-4 second.

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