Thorbjorn Olesen Q&A: The Masters is a really special event ... the course suits my game well

The Danish golfer contests this week’s Masters hoping to improve on his tied-6th finish in 2013 – his best performance in a major to date

Thorbjorn Olesen Rolex media interview
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Danish golfer Thorbjorn Olesen contests this week’s Masters hoping to improve on his tied-6th finish in 2013 – his best performance in a major to date. A member of the victorious European Ryder Cup team last October, Olesen says his experience as a rookie in France should stand him in good stead to challenge for the game's premier titles. That quest begins at Augusta on Thursday.

Q: What’s it like playing a match at the Ryder Cup compared to a normal tournament or a major? What are the biggest differences when you’re at the Ryder Cup?

A: There are so many different feelings running through your head. The first tee shot on the Friday morning for me 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. I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the number of fans there, but I found playing in front of a huge home crowd really helped me and provided the whole team with a huge advantage. 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.

Where does your Ryder Cup win against Jordan Spieth (5&4) rank in relation to your individual success?

It ranks extremely high. Much like having the engraved Rolex watch [presented in France to each member of the European side] it’s something I’ll have for ever. 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.

How far away do you think you are from that elite level and competing at majors?

I feel like I’m in a much better place right now than just a couple of years ago. 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 World Golf Championship events and that’s exactly what I need to be doing to learn how to compete at the majors and put myself in position to win.

Do you feel comfortable in that environment now and has success at the Ryder Cup helped your mindset of being in contention at the majors?

Yeah, I think I’ve been pretty good at finishing off when I put myself in good positions recently and I feel confident when I’ve been in contention at majors. 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, simply because there are so many nerves at the time. In those types 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.

You finished sixth in Augusta in 2013. Is that the major that you think you could really preform well at this year?

Yeah, I think the course suits my game well because I like to draw the ball, which is a big advantage there. I love the greens and, although I’ve only played there twice, I played well both times. I think the Masters and The Open will be my best chance at a major, but I do think I could see myself doing well at the US Open and the PGA Championship.

Thorbjorn Olesen Rolex media interview
Thorbjorn Olesen believes he can challenge at the Masters in Augusta. Chris Turvey / Rolex

Do you still get the “wow” factor when you go to Augusta given that you have played there only twice?

Yeah, whenever I go there it’s definitely a special feeling. The first time is the most impressive, but every time I go there it’s special. Even the guys who have played there 20 times get that feeling, I think. Everything is really relaxed there, and the history is so important. Growing up, I watched the Masters so many times on TV so I felt like I knew everything about the course. But it’s a really special event.

If you could choose one major to win would it be the Masters?

I think The Open was the biggest major for me when I was growing up, and I might have changed that slightly in the past few years to the Masters. So it would be a very close call between those two events.

Are there any memories of watching the Masters over the years that really stick out?

A: 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!

Thorbjørn Olesen was speaking to UAE media as a Rolex Testimonee. He is a five-time winner on the European Tour, with his most recent victory coming at last year’s Italian Open – a Rolex Series event. Rolex has been a Partner of the European Tour since 1997.