OLESEN EAGER FOR MORE ROYAL CELEBRATIONS
Rising star Thorbjørn Olesen says he would not mind spending a few more birthdays in China, if it means reliving the drama of his unforgettable Royal Trophy debut.
The Danish golfer rocketed to prominence when he finished an eye-catching sixth in his first Master appearance last year – out-scoring everyone else in the field over the final 54 holes – and it was just as hard to keep him out of the picture at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou.
He celebrated his 24th birthday by helping Europe stay in touch with an Asian Team who was threatening to run away with things over the first two days, combining with fellow rookie Bernd Wiesberger to register a crucial fourball success over the much-vaunted Japanese duo of Ryo Ishikawa and Hiroyuki Fujita.
And Olesen followed up with an impressive 3&2 victory over in-form Chinese ace Wu Ashun in the singles to help Europe roar back from a 7-3 deficit to claim a famous 8 ½ – 7 ½ triumph.
And he admits he still looks back on that pulsating duel with Asia with a mixture of pride and deep satisfaction. Olesen explained: “I must admit before I got the call from José María Olazábal inviting me to be a member of the European Team for the Royal Trophy, being involved in a do-or-die contest against some of Asia’s finest golfers was not how I envisioned spending my birthday.
“But it turned out to be a memorable occasion, and I see the eighth edition of the Royal Trophy in 2014 also takes in my next birthday. So would I love to be involved in a similar shootout? You bet I would.
“There will be plenty of time in future years to relax and spend birthdays chilling out with friends and family. These are the years when I want to get the very most I can out of my golfing career, so if I get the call to play for Europe again, I’ll be on the next plane out.
“I understand the Royal Trophy is likely to stay in China … around the same date in mid to late December. If that means me spending quite a few birthdays in that country, then great – it will mean I’m playing good enough golf to warrant a place in the European Team for a truly prestigious competition.”
Olesen also feels the white-hot feel of competition at the Royal Trophy was perfect preparation for his bid to charge up the world rankings this year, and to bid for a place in the European Team for the 2014 Ryder Cup. And he backed up that belief with a sparkling performance at the Qatar Masters last week, where he finished third behind Sergio Garcia.
Olesen was denied a place in the play-off that saw Garcia edge out Mikko Ilonen when his eagle putt at the final hole shaved the target, leaving him just a shot adrift of the top two. But his sparkling performance showed why Olazábal was prepared to make him the youngest member of the latest European Team, and confirmed the Danish ace is right to dream about a few more birthdays spent pulling on European colours.
He added: “I just loved the whole experience of my first Royal Trophy, the camaraderie of the team room, the opportunity to learn from a golfing legend in José María, and the intensity of the matches themselves.
“I believe as a young golfer the more you put yourself in those pressure situations, the more you will improve as a competitor.
“Even though we came back from a near-impossible position at Dragon Lake … the mood was more one of quiet reflection and obvious pride at what we achieved. But it felt great – who wouldn’t want to be part of that as often as possible?”
The Royal Trophy originated from a historic meeting held in 2001 and attended by the late legendary five-time Major winner Seve Ballesteros, his nephew and former manager Ivan Ballesteros and sports entrepreneur Lincoln Venancio. In 2005 His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand graciously donated the perpetual sixteen-kilogram solid-silver Trophy for the competition. At the occasion of the inaugural hosting of the matches in 2006, Seve Ballesteros predicted that the Royal Trophy would “grow into one of the world’s greatest sporting competitions.”
The eighth edition of the Royal Trophy will be held on 19-21 December 2014 at the 54-hole Dragon Lake Golf Club located in China’s third largest city, Guangzhou.