Thorbjorn Olesen looks to qualify for U.S. Open after Italian Open win

BRESCIA, ITALY - JUNE 03: Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark poses with the Italian Open trophy after victory in the competition during the final round of the Italian Open at Gardagolf Country Club on June 3, 2018 in Brescia, Italy. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images) Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Thorbjorn Olesen looks to qualify for U.S. Open after Italian Open win

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Thorbjorn Olesen looks to qualify for U.S. Open after Italian Open win

Forget about the 24-hour rule. Thorbjorn Olesen will be back on the tee Monday morning after winning the Italian Open.

Olesen, a 28-year-old from Denmark, is in a late morning pairing with Thomas Pieters for U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying at Walton Heath Golf Club in London. He enters with plenty of momentum coming off his first career win at a Rolex Series event.

“This is exactly what I needed,” Olesen said.

Olesen shot 22-under 262 at Gardagolf Country Club in Brescia, Italy to beat Francesco Molinari by one stroke in what was essentially a road game for Olesen down the stretch.

He led hometown favorite Molinari by two strokes entering the final hole and took a conservative approach off the tee, pulling 5-wood to avoid big trouble. He drove it into the rough and, while waiting to hit his approach, watched Molinari sink a 30-foot birdie putt in the group ahead to get within a stroke.

“All of a sudden, I knew I needed to make four to win,” Olesen said. “That definitely made it tough.”

Olesen hit his approach into a greenside bunker but was able to get up and down, dropping a 10-foot par putt to cap a 7-under 64 and play the role of spoiler in the final round. It was his first victory in an individual event since the 2016 Turkish Airlines Open and fifth European Tour win.

It was also a somewhat surprising result considering Olesen’s only prior top-10 finish this season came in the match play-format ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.

Lee Slattery finished third at 20 under, and Rafa Cabrera Bello was fourth at 18 under.

“Unbelievable,” Olesen said. “Obviously been a little bit of a tough time for me this year. To come into this Rolex Series and do what I’ve done is amazing, especially to come from behind and win. I haven’t done that in my career, so that was very special.”

Olesen’s struggles over the past year pale in comparison to those of fallen 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett, who finally showed signs of life with a T-8 finish.

Willett was ranked No. 9 in the world after winning at Augusta and has since dropped to No. 462, with just one cut made in seven previous starts this season.

“Talk about no results, literally zero, so it’s been a tough run to kind of keep the chin up and keep working hard,” Willett said. “I’ve been really low. I’ve been low, low, and to hit some shots out there … the good shots are a lot better than they were, and the bad ones are getting to where they are OK.”

Willett can relax a bit on Monday morning – he’s already exempt for next week’s U.S. Open as a Masters winner in the past five years.

Olesen doesn’t have that luxury, so he’ll get back to the grind immediately following his signature moment to date.

“In my career I’ve won bigger and bigger tournaments,” Olesen said. “This is definitely the biggest so far and yeah, it means a lot and it just came at a very good time.” Gwk

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