Thorbjørn Olesen took the confidence gained from playing alongside Tiger Woods in last week’s Open Championship to establish a three shot after two rounds of the Lyoness Open powered by Greenfinity.
The Dane, who finished ninth at Royal Lytham & St Annes, was partnered with former World Number One and 14-Major winner Woods in the penultimate group on the third day.
It was another high point in a season that has seen the 22 year old claim his maiden European Tour title at the Sicilian Open, and record six top ten finishes.
“I took a lot of confidence from how I played and how I handled the pressure last week,” he said. “It was special to play with Tiger, and I managed to play quite well which shows that I’m not too fazed by anything anymore. We didn’t talk too much because we were both concentrating on our own games and trying to win, but it was an amazing experience and definitely one of the highlights of my career so far.”
After a lengthy rain delay on the opening day, it was the threat of lightning which brought day two to premature close, but none of the afternoon starters who had to return on Friday morning managed to make an impression on the leaderboard.
Starting the second day one behind Pablo Larrazábal, Olesen’s first task was to complete his first round and he played the last four holes in one under par courtesy of a birdie at the 17th hole to match the Spaniard’s round of 64.
Then, after a quick turnaround, he signed for a second round of 68 for a 12 under par aggregate total at the midway point.
Starting on the back nine, he turned in 35 after two birdies and a bogey at Diamond Country Club in Atzenbrugg, Austria, but saved his best work for the front nine.
In perfect conditions a million miles from Wednesday’s downpours, Olesen holed birdie putts from 12 and 25 feet at the fourth and fifth holes respectively, before his approach to three feet at the eighth.
“There was quite a strong wind out there at times,” said Olesen. “I struggled a bit round the turn and hit a few bad drives, but I managed to hit some good shots coming home, so I’m happy to get in on 12 under par. It’s been a long day, but a very good one.
“I’ve been playing well for the past few months really, so I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t win. I’m just looking forward to the next two days now – hopefully I can get the job done.”
Olesen’s effort left him three clear of Thomas Levet, who carded four birdies and two bogeys in a second round of 70.
And the French veteran was pleased his long game kept him in the hunt after a tough day on the greens.
“I was very pleased with some parts of my game, but not so pleased with other parts,” said Levet, who broke his leg celebrating his Alstom Open de France win last summer and did not record another top five finish until the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open two weeks ago.
“I lost the speed of the greens, so struggled to make many putts. Uphill I was getting too aggressive, then downhill I was leaving them short, which was frustrating. On number eight for example, I put my ball in the best possible position on the green. It was a straight putt uphill, but I knocked it long and left and then missed the one coming back.
“So it was a frustrating day on the greens, but my mental approach was very good and I’m swinging the club quite well, so there are more positives than negatives to take from the day.
England’s Richard Bland recorded a second round of 67 to lie third on eight under, with home favourite Bernd Wiesberger amongst those a shot further back after a joint-best-of-the-day 66.
The third round being played in three-balls with the players starting from two tees, with Olesen, Levet and Bland out at 14:05.