Thorbjørn Olesen shrugged off the nerves of playing with Tiger Woods in the penultimate pairing of The Open Championship to remain in contention at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
The Dane, playing only his second Open after graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2010, met 14-time Major champion Woods for the first time as he stepped on the first tee, admitting it was a nervous experience which perhaps contributed to a couple of poor swings early on which cost shots.
But he rallied with birdies on the seventh, eighth and 11th holes to keep himself in the hunt. A double bogey on the 14th, however, where he left it in one of the 206 infamous fairways bunkers strategically placed around the course, put a dent in his chances of victory. While he birdied the 17th, his approach from the left rough on the last ran through the green, bouncing against the Lytham Clubhouse and he was unable to get up and down.
His one over par 71 left him at four under par 206 in seventh place, but he will have to pass some of the greatest players of a generation and overcome a seven stroke deficit if he is to take the Claret Jug home on Sunday. And four of the six players ahead of him have some impressive Major Championship pedigree – Masters Champion Zach Johnson, Open and double US Open Champion Ernie Els, Woods with his 14 Majors, 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell – while Scott is a distant seven shots ahead of the Dane and four clear of the field.
But regardless of what happens on Sunday, when the wind is expected to blow, Olesen relished the experience.
“Playing with Tiger is something special,” he said. “There are a lot of people around him and just playing in front of so many people was a great experience. It was a pleasure to play with him.
“He is a great guy, fantastic player and the crowds were amazing. I have never played in front of so many people before so it was a big thing for me. I thought I hit a lot of good shots but could have holed some more putts.”
As for the butterflies at the start, he said: “I was particularly nervous on the first tee, mainly because of Tiger. He has been my idol so many years so it was a big thing for me to play with him. I was nervous the first few holes and that cost me two shots but overall felt I played well. Kept the ball in play and gave myself chances.
“We had a little chat down the seventh but not much. He is out here for winning and he was concentrating on that and I didn’t want to stop him.”
And of his chances on Sunday, he said: “I am working hard, trying to get as good as possible and hopefully I can have a good day tomorrow. I learnt a lot today from Tiger as he had a great strategy round the course, played a lot of irons off the tee to take the bunkers out of play.
“I thought I played well, just an error on 14 and flier on the last, and hope for a good day tomorrow.”