LYTHAM-ST. ANNES, ENGLAND -- If ignorance is bliss, then maybe Thorbjorn Olesen won't be reduced to a quivering glob of Jell-o during Round Two of the British Open, like everyone expects.
Olesen, a 22-year-old European Tour player from Denmark, birdied the 18th hole Friday evening to vault into a 3:10 p.m. Saturday pairing with Tiger Woods. Asked if he grasped what kind of chaos he'll have to endure, Olesen smiled broadly, shook his head wistfully and said, "I have no idea."
Olesen posted 66 in Round Two for a 5-under-par 135 total at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, leaving him five shots behind leader Brandt Snedeker. Woods shot 67-134; he trails Snedeker by four strokes and Adam Scott by three.
Two iconic scoreboards flank the final hole at every British Open, and Olesen said he was aware walking down the 18th fairway that a pairing with Woods could be had. "I knew if I made a birdie, I had a chance to play with Tiger," he said. "That was amazing."
Olesen drilled his approach shot to 25 feet and calmly drained the putt for 3.
Olesen said Woods has "been my idol" since he was 9 or 10 years old. They'll be meeting for the first time when they warm up for Saturday's round. "So it's fantastic to have a chance to play with him," said Olesen. "I'm really looking forward to it."
Woods in the hunt for his 15th title at a major means dozens of photographers, reporters and security personnel will be jockeying for position before every shot he takes. It means a mass of humanity outside the ropes, enthusiasm unrestrained. Most will be armed with cellphone cameras, and attempts to restrict picture-taking will be fruitless.
Woods has always had a gift for blocking it all out. Asked what kind of tolerance he has for such commotion, Olesen replied: "I don't know, I've never tried it before. I've only seen it on TV.
"But hopefully I do," he said. "I have a lot of confidence, so, yeah, I believe I can do it. It's going to be a lot of fun, I think."
Olesen turned professional at age 19. He played the European Challenge Tour -- the equivalent to the Web.com Tour in the U.S. -- in 2009 and 2010, earning a promotion to the European Tour with a third-place finish on the Challenge money list in his second season. As a European Tour rookie last year, Olesen scored three runner-up finishes and placed 48th in the European Tour's Race to Dubai. He notched his first European Tour victory in early April at the Sicilian Open.
This is Olesen's second British Open appearance. He shot 73-74 and missed the cut last year at Royal St. George's. He earned his berth here via International Final Qualifying at Sunningdale, England, where he made birdie on the second hole of a playoff for the last available spot in the one-day, 36-hole marathon.
Olesen has devoured Royal Lytham's par-3 holes this week, playing them in 6-under par. "I've hit my irons amazing he last three or four weeks," he said. "I've just hit them really close."
Olesen said the biggest stage he's experienced in his brief professional career was the final round of the 2011 French Open, where he was runner-up by a shot to Thomas Levet of France. Levet, obviously an overwhelming crowd favorite, compared the atmosphere that day at Le Golf National to the Ryder Cup.
Nevertheless, Olesen said he really didn't have any experiences he could draw on to prepare for his head-to-head encounter with Woods. "I think it's going to be something special," he said. "So I'm just going to go out there and enjoy it and play my own game."
Good luck with that.
Dave Seanor is an award-winning sports writer who has covered golf for more than 20 years. He's attending his 13th British Open this year.
- Sports & Recreation
- Tiger Woods
- Royal Lytham