Thorbjørn Olesen has a golden opportunity to break his European Tour duck after a brilliant round of 67 at a wind-swept Sicilian Open.
With just five shots separating the 65 players who made the cut, ‘moving day’ was always going to be significant at Verdura Golf Resort & Spa near Sciacca, Sicily, and so it proved as 22 year old Olesen moved into a three shot lead.
The Dane had three runner-up finishes in his rookie campaign last season, but is in prime position to go one better after following a bogey at the sixth hole with four birdies and an eagle at the long 14th hole.
Only 18 players were able to break par in the third round, and Olesen’s best-of-the-day round was matched only by Canadian Andrew Parr, who shares second place with big-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.
At one point, the wind was so strong that Olesen’s hat blew off, but he defied the blustery conditions to birdie the 18th hole – the scourge of plenty of players this week.
“It’s definitely one of the toughest holes on the course, especially in the wind,” he said. “It’s important to hit a good tee shot, and luckily I managed to get a great drive down the middle of the fairway. I had a nine iron for my second shot, managed to put it pretty close and hole the putt, which wasn’t easy in the wind. So it was a great finish to the day.
“I struggled a little bit on the front nine, but managed to hang in there and was pleased to pick up two shots after making a bogey on the sixth hole. That got me going a little bit and I was able to take a few more chances on the back nine.
“Sometimes the gusts were so strong, especially on the coast, that you just got blown away. It was tough just to stand up sometimes, let alone play golf.”
Olesen came into the week with some solid form behind him, having notched two top-ten finishes in six starts, with just one missed cut in that run.
But the World Number 154 will not be taking anything for granted come Sunday afternoon.
“I know that I’m going to have to play very well tomorrow, because there are a lot of great players up there and you can’t win on The European Tour by playing average golf,” he added.
“My confidence is very high at the moment because of the way I’m playing, and hopefully I can finish the job off. With a bit of luck, the wind will be a little calmer tomorrow. Either way, my short game is going to have to very good.”
Parr was one of only three players to complete a bogey-free round, as he looks to continue the good form he showed when finishing 13th at the Joburg Open in his only previous European Tour appearance this season.
“I think the key to playing well in the wind is hitting solid shots, and luckily enough I managed to do that today,” said the 28 year old. “I kept it in play off the tee and hit a lot of good iron shots, which set up a few birdie chances and I managed to take five of them.”
Colsaerts mixed six birdies with three bogeys in his round of 69, while Lloyd Saltman, Søren Kjeldsen and Peter Lawrie – a leader after the first and second rounds – share fourth place on eight under par.
“Before you hit every shot you’ve got to really think about it for a couple of minutes,” said Colsaerts. “One minute the wind’s blowing sideways, the next minute it’s straight into your face. So it’s very tough to get your club selection right. But hopefully it’ll be a bit calmer for the final day – I’m really looking forward to it.”
The six halfway co-leaders endured mixed fortunes. Lawrie and Simon Wakefield (74) are the only two in the top ten, as Pelle Edberg (75), Maarten Lafeber (77), David Lynn (79) and Jamie Donaldson (80) slipped into the chasing pack.