If Thorbjorn Olesen does ever blossom into the star player many are predicting he will become, he’ll probably look back on his round with Tiger Woods as the day he came of age.
The man often touted as Europe’s ”next big thing” had his first taste of the Tiger experience in the third round of the British Open on Saturday.
It’s something he’ll never forget.
”There’s so many people around him, a lot of journalists — a lot of things happen around him,” Olesen said. ”Just playing in front of such a big crowd, I learnt a lot.”
The young Dane slept well during the night, surprisingly well considering he was coming face to face with his boyhood hero for the first time the next day. He was fine on the practice greens, too.
The situation hit him only as he took to the course.
”On the first tee, I was really nervous,” Olesen said. ”And probably on the first three or four holes, I think.
”He’s been my idol for so many years, since I was a little kid. It was a big thing for me to play with him.”
Olesen reacted well to the pressure, shooting a 1-over 71 to stay in contention for the title. At 4 under, he’s seven strokes off leader Adam Scott but only three off the pair in second place, Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell.
Woods and Olesen shook hands at the start of their round and again on the 18th, after the Dane missed a 5-footer for par. Other than that, there was precious little interaction between them.
”We had a little chat down the seventh. But not much (else),” Olesen said. ”He’s out here to win and I think he was quite concentrating on that, so I didn’t want to disturb him.”
Instead, Olesen just looked on and admired.
The 22-year-old, who won his first European Tour event this year and is ranked No. 112, is considered a great student of the game and has a good attitude, always willing to learn. He watched the way Woods plotted his way around Royal Lytham & St. Annes, by using his driver sparingly and hitting his irons off the tee to take many of the bunkers out of play.
Olesen will be enriched by the experience if, as expected, he challenges for majors in the future.
”He had a great strategy for the course … I learned a lot from that,” said Olesen, who remembered receiving a couple of compliments from Woods on the back nine.
Olesen could still have a say in this tournament.
After his early wobbles, his play was as solid as Woods’ and when he holed a 10-footer on No. 13, he was 6 under overall and in joint third place. The turning point came at the 14th, when his attempt to play out sideways from a pot bunker saw the ball loiter on the lip and fall back in.
He made double-bogey there and after getting a shot back on No. 17, he hit a flier through the 18th green and failed to get up and down from next to the clubhouse.
He is known as a streaky player, however. If he hits a hot streak on Sunday, the youngest player on the leaderboard could yet lift the claret jug and become the 16th different winner of the last 16 majors.
Olesen plays his fourth round with another American Bill Haas. Expect the scrutiny to relent and the galleries to be less crowded.
”Great guy, great player, fantastic,” he said of his day with Tiger. ”I really enjoyed it.”