Thorbjørn Olesen completed a dream 24 hours as the Dane booked his place in next week’s U.S. Open Championship at the Sectional Qualifier in Walton Heath Golf Club, the day after becoming a Rolex Series champion with the biggest victory of his career at the Italian Open.
It was a typically dramatic day at Walton Heath Golf Club - which will host the British Masters supported by Sky Sports later this year - as 107 players battled it out over 36 holes for just 14 spots in the year’s second Major Championship at Shinnecock Hills in New York.
Fan favourite Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston was among the four British players who took the first four spots, the Englishman making it three consecutive successful qualifications through this venue after finishing top of the leaderboard on ten under par alongside countryman James Morrison.
“It’s a tough day, after coming in late from Italy last night,” said Johnston. “I got in late and didn’t much sleep, and then two rounds today. It’s tough but it’s been a good day.
“It is difficult, but you have to just get out there and play and get yourself around the fact that you’re not going to get much sleep. That’s the kind of mindset you’ve got to get into.
“I played lovely early on and then I started nicely in my second round too, but then I scrambled hard on the back nine coming in, but I’ve done enough so it’s good.
“The last event I played in New York area was the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol and that was wild! So I’m expecting it’s going to be loud and it’ll be good fun. I haven’t played there before but I’ve heard some really good things about it so I’m really looking forward to playing there.”
Playing partners Matt Southgate of England and Richie Ramsay of Scotland, meanwhile, shared third spot on nine under.
“There was a good bit of pressure coming down the stretch there but I thrive under that,” said Ramsay. “I love the pressure. Obviously it’s a tough golf course, if you hit a tee-shot off line you can really get into some bother.
“But I did it last year and it’s great to follow it up this year. I can’t wait to play Shinnecock again because I’ve played it once before and it’s some golf course, beautiful.”
Southgate said: “I’m absolutely over the moon. Obviously I woke up really early this morning to come down here and play the 36 holes and I got off to a terrible start – I four-putted the first green and I just wanted to break the putter really.
“Obviously I never gave up and set little goals along the way and achieved those and finished off really well on the last nine holes under pressure and knowing what it was for.
“I definitely think it helps when you’ve done this a couple of times before. I’m a bit of a qualifying specialist with Qualifying Schools and Open Championship qualifying and stuff. There’s a different feel to it – you’re hitting putts thinking, ‘keep your head still to get into the US Open’."
Two-time European Tour winner Matt Wallace and 2016 Amateur Champion Scott Gregory were among the others to qualify while Olesen shared 12th place with Norwegian amateur Kristoffer Reitan on six under.
“I feel tired but relieved,” said the five-time European Tour winner. “I played nicely actually, just made a silly mistake there at 17 for a double and all of a sudden there was a bit of pressure but I’m really happy to have made it.
“It’s probably the toughest Major there is on the courses they play on. They set it up really tough so it will be interesting. I’m looking forward to getting back and playing a U.S Open.
“From last week I have a lot of confidence and belief in myself now so I have to keep working hard and hopefully be ready for the U.S Open. I have heard lots of good things about Shinnecock Hills so I’m really looking forward to seeing it.”
Olesen and Reitan both avoided the eight-man play-off – with one of the nine players tied for 13th having missed the play-off after departing the venue early. The action went late into the evening, and the man to emerge victorious by claiming the one and only spot available was Englishman Paul Waring, who overcame compatriot Ryan Evans after it came down to just two players on the fourth extra hole.