British Open 2012: Everything You Need to Know About Thorbjorn Olesen

Matthew DickerContributor IIIJuly 22, 2012

British Open 2012: Everything You Need to Know About Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Prior to this week, even the most dedicated golf fan was unlikely to recognize the name Thorbjorn Olesen.

    They would have been more likely to guess that it was the real name of the Swedish Chef or a member of the Avengers than a little-known Danish golfer.

    After his dominant play through three rounds of the 2012 British Open, they will now know that it is the name of one of the most promising young golfers in the sport.

    Through three rounds of play at the British Open, Olesen stands in sole possession of seventh place, only seven strokes behind the leader, Adam Scott.

    Though it is unlikely that Olesen will be able to overtake the six golfers ahead of him to win the Claret Jug, he has already put the golf world on notice. Golf writers better get used to writing (and spelling) his name.

    This isn't the first time that a young golfer has come out of nowhere to sit near the top of the leaderboard so late into a major, but Olesen has already proven that he's a gifted young golfer and not just a flash in the pan who strung together three lucky rounds.

    Since you are likely to start regularly hearing Olesen's name in the future, it is worth taking a moment to learn a bit about the young Danish golfer.

    Here is everything you need to know about Thorbjorn Olesen.

Olesen Has Blasted Through the European Professional Golf Tours

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    Thorbjorn Olesen is a native of Fureso, Denmark, a municipality of under 40,000 people just outside of Copenhagen. Olesen turned professional in 2008 at 18 years old.

    Olesen began his career playing in the Nordic League, a third-tier tour that is part of the Satellite Tour—the equivalent of a minor league for the European Tour. Olesen needed only one year to prove that he was too talented for the tour, winning four tournaments in less than 10 months. 

    Olesen's dominating performance in the Nordic League earned him a promotion to the second-tier Challenger Tour for the 2010 season, and his success continued. He won The Princess—a tournament held in Sweden—and finished ranked third on the year, earning him a second promotion in as many years.

    While it takes most young European golfers a bit of time to adjust to each new level of professional golf, Olesen hasn't missed a beat upon reaching each new level. Olesen finished tied for second at three Tour events in his first year on the Tour, and then followed this up by winning the Sicilian Open in April, 2012.

    With his breakout performance in this year's Open, Thoresen will likely become one of the biggest young stars on the European Tour, and it looks like the 22-year-old will only get better. 

No One Gave Olesen a Chance

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    Whenever an athlete unexpectedly comes out of nowhere to contend for a title, some experts will invariably rush to explain why it happened and how they believed in the athlete's chances all along. If you hear anyone say this about Olesen's performance at the Open, don't believe them for a second.

    VegasInsider.com posted odds before the tournament for the top 97 golfers in the world, ranging from Tiger Woods at 4/1 to David Duval at 500/1. Olesen was not even on the board. Of the top 15 golfers through three rounds, only Thomas Aiken (tied for eighth) and Mark Calcavecchia (tied for 10th) were also not given odds.

    In advance of the Open, experts predicted all kinds of golfers to win the tournament. Most predictions centered around stars like Tiger Woods or Lee Westwood, and some brave souls may have been willing to place their money on Ernie Els, probably for old-times sake.

    But you won't find anyone who thought Thorbjorn Olesen had a chance. 

Olesen Struggled at Last Year's Open, but Scored an Eagle

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    Olesen was invited to play in his first major at last year's British Open due to his excellent performance on the 2011 European Tour.

    He missed the cut after finishing the first two rounds seven over par, four strokes above the cut line.

    Though his outcome was obviously not what he had hoped for, he finished ahead of such golfers as Ernie Els and Matt Kuchar.

    Olesen had started the tournament off well on the first day by posting par scores on the first four holes. He posted bogies on holes five, nine and 13, and parred the rest of the holes.

    Day 2 was a bit shakier for Olesen. He bogied the first hole, and then bogied five more holes through the round. His one moment of brilliance came on the par-five seventh hole, on which he eagled. 

    While Olesen missed the cut, it was a solid performance for the young golfer's first major, and he could take comfort in finishing ahead of 46 other golfers.

Olesen's Stats Don't Yet Compare with the PGA's Best

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    Olesen has looked every bit the equal of the top Tour players through the first three rounds of the Open, but his 2012 season statistics show that he still has a lot of work to do to compete with the PGA's best.

    Olesen averages 289.59 yards per drive in 2012, down from 295.19 in 2011. His 2012 average would put him in the mid-80s in the PGA rankings for driving distance with an average similar to Lucas Glover.

    His driving accuracy is even worse at 52.6 percent. The elite drivers in the PGA hover near 70 and the worst drivers are just under 50. Olesen's accuracy would put him around 173 out of 188 ranked drivers.

    Olesen's putting has not been much better. He averages 29.18 putts per round in 2012, an improvement of more than one putt from 2011, but still not good enough to rank with the PGA Tour's best. His average would place him tied for 99th on the Tour.

    Yet despite his suboptimal stats in these categories, Olesen still manages to get to the greens faster than almost any golfer.

    The statistic greens in regulation (GIR) measures the percentage of holes in which a golfer reaches the green at least two strokes before par. Olesen's GIR is 68 percent this year—a number that would place him about equal to Tiger Woods—right around 10th best on the Tour.

    Olesen has also been a master at playing from the bunker. His sand save percentage of 60.53 percent would earn him the No. 11 spot on the Tour.  

    It is clear that there is significant room for improvement in Olesen's game that will be necessary for him to regularly compete at the elite level of professional golf.

    Yet it is equally clear that he has great talent for such a young age, and that he already has enough developed talent in certain aspects of his game to allow him to be competitive at the top level of golf.

Olesen Could Become the First Great Scandinavian Golfer

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    Though talented golfers come out of the region every few years, no Scandinavian golfer has ever won a major. Olesen's fellow countryman Thomas Bjorn came closest at the 2003 Open before his bunker-induced collapse, but the title of "First Scandinavian to Win a Major" is still up for grabs.

    Several golfers have been fighting for the distinction in recent years.

    Of the Top 50 ranked golfers in the world, three are from Sweden (Peter Hanson, Carl Pettersson and Fredrik Jacobson), and one is Danish (Bjorn)—an unprecedented plethora of Scandinavian golfing talent.

    Bjorn has been a perennial threat to win a major—he has seven Top 10 finishes—and Peter Hanson's two Top 10 finishes in the last two years made it appear that he was taking the baton from Bjorn.

    Olesen is still far from proving himself as the No. 1 Scandinavian contender—a title which presently belongs to Hanson—still, he has high expectations placed upon him.

    None other than Thomas Bjorn himself has heaped praise at the young golfer.

    "I saw Sergio Garcia arrive on the scene, Rory arrive on the scene and this boy has it all, everything to be a world class player," said Bjorn. He added "I honestly think we have not seen a talent like this in Danish golf ever."