By Emil Bremnes
Thorbjørn Olesen, who finished as runner-up four years ago, held his nerve to win the 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, completing the tournament two shots ahead of Brooks Koepka and Chris Stroud.
The Dane started the day with a three-shot lead, after putting together a magnificent seven-under par round of 65 at the Old Course on Saturday. This was the 25-year old’s third European Tour title. When speaking to STAR Radio, after receiving his trophy, he revealed he ranks the win as probably the most important one of his career:
“It’s definitely the biggest tournament, with the strongest field of players and great golf courses. Although my first title will always be very memorable, I rank this one very highly.”
Following a series of injuries and bad form, going into the tournament, Olesen was in danger of losing his membership of the tour for the following season, otherwise known as the ‘tour card’. For anyone who does not follow golf, losing his card would mean having to qualify in order to play tournaments, such as the Dunhill, next season, instead of being automatically qualified.
With only a few tournaments left this season, the Scandinavian sought to finish high in St Andrews this weekend. Needless to say, he succeeded, with the win securing his playing rights on the European tour for next season.
Bothered with injuries and bad form throughout the year, Thunder-Bear (as he is sometimes called) admitted that the renewal of his ‘card’ is an enormous relief:
“Obviously. As the season goes, you start to think about it more and more. I knew I was far behind and needed to do something extraordinary the last three golf tournaments. Now I can relax a bit more the next few weeks.”
Although Olesen began Sunday’s round with a three-shot lead, his nerves seemed to get to him at the beginning when he followed his birdie at the first with a double bogey and a bogey on holes two and three. The 25-year old had an explanation for his early double bogey:
“I got too aggressive on the second hole. I hit a great drive, but got too aggressive on the second shot and landed in the bunker. When you get too aggressive on a links course, you get punished.”
Despite the wobbly start, he managed to bounce back with consecutive birdies at the next two holes to return to the top of the leader board. When asked what was going through his mind at that point, Olesen answered confidently:
“I have been in a similar situation before. When I won my first tournament (2012 Sicilian Open, journ.anm.) I had a three-shot lead and fell back very quickly. So I knew I had managed it before, and just kept on being patient, attempting to make pars and trying to make a few birdies.
According to Olesen, the ‘clinching moment’ came at the fifteenth hole, when he extended his advantage to two shots with a terrific birdie putt from 50 feet.
“It was nice to get the birdie at the fifteenth. I had had a few chances before that I had missed, so it was a big relief to see it go in.”
With almost every golf fan’s favourite tournament, the Ryder Cup, only a year away, Thunder-Bear was asked whether he saw a position on the European team as within reach, to which he unenthusiastically responded:
“I have not thought about it at all. I have only been thinking about getting my game back together and playing some nice golf. Right now I just want to enjoy this moment.”
Finally, when asked what the win at St Andrews means to him personally, Olesen at first seemed pensive before concluding:
“It’s been a very tough year and standing here with this trophy is unbelievable. I want to give a special thanks to my coaches, family and friends. Everyone who has been there for me.”
With this win, Olesen becomes the first Dane to have won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and can cash a fine check of over £520,000.
As for the pros and amateur tournament, Michael Ballack, ex-footballer for Germany, and his compatriot Florian Fritsch won after birdieing the final hole. The duo scored a total of forty-under par, beating the English golfer Chris Wood and American talk-show host Mark Madden by a single shot.