Millions walk away from car crashes, but few survive Amen Corner

The undulating greens of Augusta National await Thorbjørn Olesen who says he is raring to go following whiplash injuries sustained in a four-vehicle collision

Nobody in the Danish golfing fraternity is holding their breath about Thorbjørn Olesen’s chances in the US Masters, which was due to start at Augusta National in Georgia on Thursday – not even one of his biggest admirers.

Leif Nyholm – the former coach of Thomas Bjørn who like Olesen has qualified to compete in this week’s Masters courtesy of his world ranking – has previously said he expects Olesen, 23, to be the man to finally break this country’s duck in the major tournaments, but not until he is a little older. 

 

“I would say that when he is in his late 20s, he might be able to tweak a Masters victory,” he told Sporten.dk.

 

History, Nyholm contends, is against the young Dane who will be making his Masters debut this week.

 

“Historically, there have been few players who have won in their first appearance in the tournament,” said Nyholm. “You just have to learn the course as you go, so personally I have no great expectations. We are talking about what is perhaps the most difficult set of greens in the world.”

 

According to Nyholm, who in the past has claimed Olesen is as good as Nike stablemate Rory McIlroy, a finishing position of between 25th and 55th would represent a “reasonable success”. 

Meanwhile, another expert, Henrik Knudsen, a pundit who works for Viasat, agrees that the Augusta course represents a huge challenge to Olesen.

 

“The course is tricky and much harder than it looks. The greens are very undulating,” he told Sporten.dk. But unlike Nyholm, Knudsen thought Olesen had the potential to surprise a few people, particularly given his unusual preparation for the tournament.

 

On March 27, Olesen was involved in a four-vehicle collision and subsequently had to pull out of the Shell Houston Open after his whiplash injuries flared up during the first round. However, treatment by an expert, said the player, had left him feeling fit for Augusta. 

 

“While his preparations may have been no way optimal, it will also ease some of the pressure and lower expectations,” Knudsen said.

 

Like Nyholm, Knudsen is confident Olesen has the talent to reach the very top of the sport. “His technique is his great strength,” he said. “In all the years I’ve covered golf, I have never seen someone strike their irons as cleanly as he does. And his temperament is also a great strength. He performs well in stressful situations.”

 

The praise is echoed by the chief golf correspondent of the Scottish Herald, who witnessed Olesen’s maiden European tour victory last year and earlier this month wrote an entire article tipping Olesen to succeed. “This savvy Scandinavian, with the easy, efficient swing and a temperament to match, has all the makings of a classic marque,” he wrote. 

 

“No male Scandinavian golfer has won a major title. These are still early days in Olesen’s blossoming career, but it’s no wonder many are backing this Dane to finally bring home the bacon.”

Whether he will match or better Thomas Bjorn’s 18th place at the Masters in 2002 remains to be seen. Perhaps he will take inspiration from Anders Hansen, a non-qualifier this year, who after two woeful showings in 2008 and 2010 finally brought his A game last year to finish 24th. 

 

The bookmakers certainly seem to agree that he is a rookie to look out for, rating him their third favourite to be top debutant at 7/1. He is meanwhile 11/2 to finish top Scandinavian and 40/1 to be the top European. Overall, Olesen is 110/1 (Bet 365) to win the Masters, while Bjørn is, with the same bookie, 300/1.