Thorbjørn Ole­sen

Rolex am­bas­sador Thorbjørn Ole­sen on the be­hind the scenes highs, and per­sonal dis­ap­pear, that marked his mem­o­rable Ryder Cup de­but at Le Golf Na­tional.

Golf Digest Middle East - - Contents - WITH KENT GRAY

The Dane breaks his si­lence on be­ing side­lined in an other­wise mem­o­rable Ryder Cup de­but.

Ithink it was very im­por­tant for me that I qual­i­fied in the top eight, be­cause it re­ally made me feel like I be­longed and should have been on the Euro­pean team. If I had been a cap­tain’s pick, I think I might have felt a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. As a rookie, qual­i­fy­ing to make the team is a re­ally nice feel­ing and lets you feel a lit­tle bet­ter about your­self when you’re there. there was such an amaz­ing vibe in the team room

when I ar­rived on the Mon­day af­ter­noon. Just be­ing there at the start of the week with all of the cap­tains, vice-cap­tains and play­ers was one of the best me­mories for me. That’s where it all started and all the bond­ing be­tween the guys be­gan and it was at that point that we be­came a team. when we met up for our prac­tice round, and a photo shoot with all of our ryder cup clothes on,

it was an­other re­ally spe­cial mo­ment for me. I think that’s one of the only times that I’ve ever been a bit ner­vous in the prac­tice rounds. the first tee shot on the fri­day morn­ing was a lit­tle bit tough.

I was very ner­vous, I was des­per­ate to go out there and play well and it wasn’t un­til af­ter a cou­ple of shots that I felt a bit more set­tled. It’s very dif­fi­cult to de­scribe be­cause it is so dif­fer­ent to play­ing on your own. You know you are play­ing for your team­mates, so you re­ally want to per­form and to win, but it is with­out a doubt a cool feel­ing, es­pe­cially with all of the crowds there. As soon as you hole one putt and you get the crowd go­ing, you’re just rid­ing on a wave of sup­port which is an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing. i ac­tu­ally went to hazel­tine two years ago to drive thomas bjørn’s buggy, so I got a good feel­ing about play­ing there and I think it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent to play­ing in Europe. The Amer­i­cans al­ways give a tough de­fence when play­ing at home and as Euro­peans, you don’t al­ways get that sup­port, so it’s cer­tainly go­ing to be a lot tougher [ at Whistling Straits in 2020]. I think that the mental strength of the play­ers on the Euro­pean team is one of our big­gest ad­van­tages so who knows what could hap­pen, but I do know it will be tougher. it was al­ways a dream of mine to play on the ryder cup team

when I was grow­ing up and you’re ob­vi­ously never sure that it will hap­pen, but to have now played as part of the team and won the tour­na­ment is a very spe­cial mem­ory for me. Much like hav­ing the en­graved Rolex watch, it’s some­thing I’ll have for­ever. It ranks ex­tremely high in my ca­reer. the watch i am wear­ing now is the one that we re­ceived from rolex

on the Tues­day in a spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion from them. You can see the en­grav­ing on the back com­mem­o­rat­ing the mo­ment, and it’s a re­ally spe­cial watch for me now. It’s a great perk to have, and it makes it even nicer be­cause we won. it was cer­tainly very tough sit­ting out on satur­day

– it was frus­trat­ing and a bit dis­ap­point­ing not to be play­ing and it makes it a very long day. I went out and played seven or eight holes on the course with Hen­rik [Sten­son] and then about six on my own where I had Padraig [Har­ring­ton] walk­ing with me which was great for me be­cause he has so much ex­pe­ri­ence and it showed me a dif­fer­ent side to him that I hadn’t seen be­fore. Hav­ing him there re­ally helped to boost my con­fi­dence for the fol­low­ing day. I had been a bit down about Fri­day and he just talked to me the whole way around the course, we had great con­ver­sa­tions and I re­ally think that helped me a lot.

thomas bjørn and i are very good friends, so it def­i­nitely didn’t make it any eas­ier

for ei­ther of us [when Ole­sen was told he would sit out all of Satur­day]. I was there two years ago with Thomas when Darren (Clarke) was cap­tain, and I think I learned a lot from that ex­pe­ri­ence be­cause I was there in the meet­ings when they de­cided who would be play­ing, so I knew how dif­fi­cult it can be for the cap­tains and the vice cap­tains to tell some­one they aren’t play­ing.

thomas told me at around 11am on satur­day morn­ing and the con­ver­sa­tion was very short,

and I don’t think we spoke to each other again un­til Satur­day evening. We know each other very well, so I think he knew that he was the last per­son I wanted to talk to purely be­cause I was so frus­trated about not play­ing – it was bet­ter for me to speak to some of the other guys such as Rory, Padraig or Ser­gio. I don’t think we had a proper chat un­til af­ter the round on Sun­day, but then we hugged it out.

it was a very low point,

sit­ting out Satur­day. I know it has hap­pened to me in my ca­reer where I’m play­ing badly for sev­eral weeks, but this was a dif­fer­ent type of low. You know, you get out on the course on Fri­day morn­ing and you don’t win a point [Ole­sen and McIl­roy lost 4&2 to Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler], fol­lowed by not play­ing on Satur­day af­ter­noon and you can start to ques­tion whether you are re­ally part of the team or not. In the mid­dle of the day on Satur­day, it was re­ally tough, but I felt bet­ter by Satur­day night af­ter speak­ing to some of the more ex­pe­ri­enced guys.

thomas told me after­wards that he re­ally didn’t want to talk to me

on the Satur­day be­cause he knew I would be so dis­ap­pointed. He told me he was very proud of me and the way in which I han­dled my­self over the week. It’s dif­fi­cult to re­mem­ber ev­ery­thing he said be­cause I was on such a high af­ter win­ning, and ev­ery­thing was hap­pen­ing so quickly.

i think it my win over jor­dan spi­eth

[5&4 in Sun­day’s sin­gles] was mostly im­por­tant for my­self re­ally. I was in the mind­set that I wanted to go out to play for my­self, rather than play­ing for Thomas.

i live in lon­don now and i was back there the week af­ter the ryder cup,

and it was the first time that peo­ple ac­tu­ally stopped me in the street and con­grat­u­lated me on win­ning which made me re­alise how im­por­tant the tour­na­ment is. It’s not just golf fans watch­ing it, but ev­ery­body which was a bit of a sur­prise for me.

i wasn’t re­ally that sur­prised that they [the amer­i­cans] didn’t play the french open

in the lead-up. I do think they un­der­es­ti­mated the golf course and us as a team and I think they were all very con­fi­dent.

there were a few pic­tures in the lead up to the tour­na­ment

say­ing things like “beat Europe” and I think that ac­tu­ally helped us be­cause we then wanted to go out and prove that we could beat them. In our team there were a lot of guys who had been play­ing very well on that course, knew it well and had been in con­tention be­fore Alex [Noren] won, so I do think they un­der­rated the course and I think that re­ally helped us.

it’s a spe­cial golf course

and the way they set ev­ery­thing up there was amaz­ing. Alex, Ser­gio [Gar­cia] and Jon [Rahm] had all been play­ing well there, so it was a huge ad­van­tage for us that week, but I do think our re­spect for the course helped as well. The sched­ule for a lot of the Amer­i­cans meant that they couldn’t play at the French Open, but they got three prac­tice rounds, so they should have learned enough then.

i’ve taken small steps in my ca­reer by win­ning big­ger tour­na­ments

each time, and my Rolex Se­ries vic­tory at the Ital­ian Open was the big­gest of my ca­reer so far. Win­ning a ma­jor has al­ways been the dream, and to win one at some point in my ca­reer would be bril­liant, but I think I need to get some [more] ex­pe­ri­ence first.

i feel like i have a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence

play­ing at ma­jors as I’ve played at quite a lot but be­ing in con­tention is a dif­fer­ent story. I’ve played well at a few ma­jors and at WGC events and that’s ex­actly what I need to be do­ing to learn how to put my­self in po­si­tion to win.

the open was the big­gest ma­jor for me when i was grow­ing up

but I might have changed that slightly in the past few years to the Masters.

tiger’s per­for­mances at the masters over the years will al­ways stick out

in my mind. There are a few shots that Phil [Mick­el­son] has hit that also stick out. When I got to Au­gusta for the first time I had to go to some of the spots that I had seen these things hap­pen at when I was watch­ing on TV.

i don’t re­ally feel scared in those en­vi­ron­ments.

In fact, I en­joy be­ing ner­vous, I think it’s a great feel­ing, and one of the rea­sons why I loved The Ryder Cup so much is sim­ply be­cause there are so many nerves at the time. In those type of en­vi­ron­ments, you learn a lot about your body and how it re­acts to pres­sure, so hope­fully one day I’ll lift a ma­jor tro­phy.

i don’t have a sports psy­chol­o­gist.

I re­mem­ber when I made it to the na­tional team in Den­mark, they tried to get me to use a few but it didn’t re­ally work out for me. I think I’ve al­ways been pretty good men­tally, and al­though there are al­ways things I can work on, I think I’ve been men­tally strong when I’ve had any chances to win.

when you get to the rolex se­ries events

you can feel ev­ery­one is a bit more ap­pre­hen­sive but I think it’s re­ally spe­cial to get a star next to your name on the leader­board and a yel­low bib for your caddy to sig­nify that you have won a Rolex Se­ries event.

the abu dhabi hsbc cham­pi­onship

is a tour­na­ment that I have al­ways loved to play at, so for me it’s great that it’s now a Rolex Se­ries event. There will be a strong field so I need to be ready to play well. That will be my first event of the year and I think I will be back in Dubai. I’m look­ing for­ward to it.

even though [fel­low rolex tes­ti­monee] tiger woods has only won one

tour­na­ment this year, it’s amaz­ing how well he has played. His con­sis­tency and how many times he has been in con­tention at the ma­jors is amaz­ing, es­pe­cially given ev­ery­thing he has been through. I think he might have been a lit­tle tired at The Ryder Cup as he was play­ing a lot be­fore then…but I’m sure he’s go­ing to have a big year in 2019. —

“I don’t think we [Ole­sen and Thomas Bjørn] had a proper chat un­til af­ter the round on Sun­day, but then we hugged it out.”

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