Thorbjorn Olesen didn’t play well in the opening round of the $1.75 million Made in Denmark tournament, but his place on the Ryder Cup team is secure at this point in the proceedings. Rest assured the Dane will be keeping a close eye on the leaderboard over the next three days.
Olesen occupies the eighth and final automatic spot on the European Ryder Cup team in the last qualifying tournament before European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn finalizes his team on Sept. 5. Olesen returned a 1-over 73 and sits in joint 93rd place, nine shots behind Englishman Jonathan Thomson, who returned an 8-under 64.
“If you play well, there’s a lot of chances out there, but if you don’t play well, it’s a really difficult course and, unfortunately, I didn’t play well,” Olesen said. “I was a bit nervous on the first tee.”
Olesen isn’t too concerned about Thomson’s score. His focus is on Matthew Fitzpatrick’s and Eddie Pepperell’s progress. Either of those two can deny Olesen a Ryder Cup spot.
Pepperell returned a 2-under 70 while Fitzpatrick could only muster a level-par 72. Olesen will need a captain’s pick to make the trip to France should Pepperell or Fitzpatrick lift the trophy on Sunday.
If Fitzpatrick wins, Olesen will need to finish better than a tie for seventh with one other player, while a top-12 finish would nullify a Pepperell victory.
“It is probably more an inspiration, I wouldn’t say a distraction,” Pepperell said about his Ryder Cup chances. “I’m still very focused on my game. I don’t think it’s affected my score today and I don’t think it will affect my score moving forward.”
Bjorn kept a close watch on all three. He teed it up alongside Pepperell and matched his round of 70. While Bjorn’s vice captains played with Olesen and Fitzpatrick. Robert Karlsson played alongside Fitzpatrick and Matt Wallace, an outside wild card pick. Lee Westwood enjoyed the company of Thomas Pieters and Olesen. Pieters cannot qualify automatically for Bjorn’s team, but many feel he has a realistic chance at one of Bjorn’s four picks. Pieters returned an opening 69.
“I didn’t feel pressure today playing with Robert,” Fitzpatrick said. “Obviously you want to play well in front of the vice-captains but at the same time I don’t think one round will make that much of a difference.”
Thomson came through all three stages of Qualifying School last year and made history by becoming the tallest player to earn a European Tour card at 6 feet 9 inches. He’s made the cut in just eight of 15 tournaments and languishes 216th on the money list.