Having knuckled down since an episode that had been hanging over his head for more than two years was finally brought to a close in December, the 32-year-old had been showing glimpses of a return to form on the DP World Tour.
In the circuit’s first event on UK soil this season, five-time winner Olesen confirmed that was indeed the case as he carded a bogey-free six-under 66 at the Sutton Coldfield venue to set the pace along with Kiwi Ryan Fox, who finished with three birdies later in the day, in an event being hosted for the second year running by Danny Willett.
“Overall, I think my game was good,” said Olesen, a member of Europe’s Ryder Cup-winning side in 2018 under fellow Dane Thomas Bjorn’s captaincy in France, of his day’s work, which saw him birdie the 10th, 13th and 15th going out before adding gains at the third, fourth and eighth on the inward journey.
“I think I hit a couple of drives that were leaked out to the right - the ninth, for example. Besides that, I felt pretty comfortable.”
Olesen had felt anything felt comfortable after an incident on a flight from Memphis to London following the 2019 WGC-Fed Ex St Jude Invitational. Upon the plane’s arrival at Heathrow, police were waiting for Olesen and he was charged with sexual assault, assault by beating and being drunk on a plane.
The 2015 Alfred Dunhill Links champion was suspended by the DP World Tour before that ban was lifted due to the case being delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Olesen had blamed his behaviour on sleeping pills, claiming he turned into an “automaton”.
Sweating over his career, the London-based player’s game suffered, but, having effectively been handed a second chance, he is determined to get back to winning ways.
“I’m still far from it, I’d say,” said Olesen, who currently sits 376th in the world rankings, having been as high as 33rd and 62nd when he got on the plane in Memphis, in reply to being asked where his current game compares to where it was. “But I worked really hard the last couple of months.”
That has coincided with linking up with a new coach in Liam James, with the pair using a combination of old and new to get the best out of him again.
“We’ve looked at videos of when I was playing well and there are certain elements that we want to try and get back,” revealed Olesen. “But we are also working on new things. We’ve done a lot of downswing work, for example.
“My club has always dropped quite a bit on the way down and was inside. So we are trying to get the club more outside, which doesn’t feel that comfortable, but it is getting better.
“I should have some years left in me - hopefully the best years. I still have a lot of goals and that’s why I’ve started to work hard again. I want to get back to winning and back up the world rankings.”