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