Thorbjorn Olesen has managed some solid efforts in major championships, but the Dane finally feels prepared to challenge for greatness and perhaps win this week at the PGA Championship.
Olesen fired a four-under-par 67 in Thursday's opening round at Quail Hollow to grab a one-stroke lead in the year's final major tournament, thanks to a 27-foot birdie putt on the closing hole.
While he has two top-10 major showings, a share of sixth in his 2013 Masters debut and of ninth at the 2012 British Open, Olesen says this is the moment that finally feels right.
"I've had a couple of top-10s in majors. I've had some good rounds in majors and I feel like I've learned a lot over the years playing quite a few majors now," Olesen said.
"I feel like I'm better prepared to be in contention over the weekend and have a chance to win."
Olesen was a contender for the Claret Jug in 2012 at Royal Lytham, sharing fourth at the Open after a second-round 66, but weekend rounds of 71 and 74 dropped him back.
At the end of the 2012 season, Olesen cracked the world top-50 in the last spot, but it was enough to book his first Masters appearance the following April.
Augusta National humbled him with a first-round 78, but Olesen responded with the best score of any player over the last three rounds, shooting a 70 and two 68s.
"I feel more confident with myself and my game than I probably did a few years ago," Olesen said. "So obviously a lot of things can happen. I just have to stay relaxed the next few days, still try to keep the ball in the fairway, and then I know I can hit it close and make some birdies."
He won't make many like the stunner at 18 that lifted him ahead of US rivals Grayson Murray, Gary Woodland, Chris Stroud and Brooks Koepka, who won the US Open in June.
"It was a little bit of a safe shot into the green," Olesen said. "That's what can happen on this golf course, when you play safe into the greens, you give yourself very tricky putts, like the one I had, downhill, left-to-right. It was very fast. But it was just a very good roll.
"I've been putting well the whole round. Had a couple of good chances and missed but felt like I was rolling the ball very well. So it was nice to see that one drop."
A key to Olesen's showing was improved driving that began last weekend in Akron at the World Golf Championships tuneup event for the PGA, where he closed 67-65.
"I just found something in my driver on the weekend and I was able to start to go at the pins and making some birdies," Olesen said. "That definitely gave me a lot of confidence."
After winning his fourth European Tour title last year in Turkey, Olesen has had two top-five finishes this season, sharing fourth at the Nordea Masters and third at the French Open.
"I had a good week in France, but besides that, I haven't really had the results, but felt like I was playing very well," Olesen said.
© 2017 AFP