ST ANDREWS, August 1, 2016 – Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen has two big goals remaining this year – to defend his Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title and to win an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro.
Olesen celebrated the biggest day of his golfing life last October with victory at St Andrews. And he says: “I would like to have my first back-to-back victory and what better place than at the Home of Golf.”
But he also has other targets, not least being in Rio next week, where he competes with his fellow countryman Soren Kjeldsen in the eagerly awaited return of golf to the Olympics, after an absence of 112 years.
Would that be the highlight of his year? “If you ask me in a few weeks, I would probably say having won a gold medal in Rio, yes. My focus is always to win so to not have a victory under my belt this season makes it hard to decide. My game has been good this year. I have been close a few times, but I am still looking for that win. Perhaps it will be back-to-back at the Alfred Dunhill Links.”
A wonder putt the length of the 15th green in the final round at the Old Course was the defining moment of his victory last October. It was a particularly satisfying moment as four years earlier he had finished second to Branden Grace.
The Dane said: “The putt on 15, across the green, gave me the momentum to keep pushing and I went two clear with the final few holes to come. It was a great feeling to win as I love links golf and as it’s such a special week. It’s one I always wanted to win. I love the three courses.
“Even though I had a few early problems in the final round, I knew I had been playing well all week, so I remained patient and knew I could still win the tournament. It meant a lot, especially being at the Home of Golf, St.Andrews, and it was my biggest victory so far, so it was a great week and one I will remember forever.”
Olesen says he loves the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship because of the history and because it is different.
“St Andrews is a special place. The 1st hole, the last three, walking over the bridge on 18. It’s an incredible place and you can feel the history around the course and clubhouse. Playing with the amateurs makes for a fun few days. It’s different from the norm, but playing with the amateurs can make it a bit more relaxed which can help the professionals’ own performance.”
His victory last year also added to the growing appeal of surfing legend Kelly Slater as the amateur partner to have. Slater had the pleasure of walking the 18th hole with the winner for the second time. Seven years ago he partnered Simon Dyson when he won.
Slater said at the time: “I’ve now played twice in this competition and twice I’ve been partnered with the professional winner. It’s amazing. In 2009 with Simon it was a great experience. But I think this one was better because it was great to see Thorbjorn come through to win.”