A month after driving a buggy at the Ryder Cup, Thorbjorn Olesen has hit the fast lane in the Race to Dubai. The 26-year-old Dane stormed six shots clear of the field at the halfway stage in the Turkish Airlines Open in Belek.
He’s landed two of his three European Tour title triumphs, including last year’s Dunhill Links, at this time of the year. A second-round 62 for a 15-under-par total at Regnum Carya has set up the possibility of it happening again.
“It’s been a good couple of days,” admitted Olesen, who’d missed seven out of 10 cuts in a torrid summer spell but had come here for the start of the Final Series feeling he’d “found something in Portugal” in the last regular event of the season a fortnight ago.
His opening 65 on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast was a flawless effort. “Yesterday was a great putting display,” he said. The scintilating 62 to back that up saw him out in 30, drop his first shot of the event at the 11th then cover the last six in six-under. That run included an eagle-3 at the 15th. He was even happier, though, about a birdie at the 17th. It was set up by him hitting a low fade around a pole from the right rough to 18 feet. “Today I played better and still putted great,” he added.
Olesen was fellow Dane Thomas Bjorn’s buggy driver at Hazeltine. Bjorn, one of Europe’s vice-captains for the match, came up with the idea and Darren Clarke happily gave it the thumbs up. Martin Kaymer did a similar thing under Nick Faldo’s captaincy and he’s played in all four since then. “It was a great experience,” admitted Olesen, who is likely to have Bjorn as his captain if he can make the team for the 2018 match in France. “In the beginning it was a little bit difficult due to the fact I’d had a pretty good chance of making the team, but I learned a lot and I will be better prepared if I do play in it in the future, so I am happy I went.”
He’ll certainly know what to expect from the fans if he ever locks horns with the Americans on their own soil. “The crowds were really rough,” he said. “Some of the stuff was very personal. It is different in Europe, but I’m happy I saw that as that’s how it is going to be in America in the future.”
Spaniard Adrian Otaegui, who won the British Boys at Barassie in 2010, and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee are Olesen’s closest challengers in the battle for a top prize worth around £950,000, the former having briefly held the course record after signing for a 63, which included a run of five birdies in a row as he came home in 31, one less than the leader.
David Drysdale retained his position in the top 10 with a 68 to sit on seven-under. “It’s a funny old game,” declared the 41-year-old after transforming his round by picking up three birdies in four holes after the turn. “I actually played miles better today than I did yesterday. I was in no bother at all, hitting a lot of fairways and giving myself a lot of chances. But it’s a good position to be in heading into the weekend. It would just be nice if I holed a few more putts in the last two rounds.”
Richie Ramsay birdied his last three holes for a 68 to sit on three-under alongside Paul Lawrie, who hit out at slow play after bogeying the last for a 70. “We were almost half an hour over the four hours and 26 minutes that it should take - it is pathetic,” said the Aberdonian. “People play as slow as they want and nobody is doing anything about it.”
Marc Warren, the fourth Scot in the field, had two double-bogeys in a 75 that dropped him to joint-58th on one-over.