Olesen shapes up as the new Great Dane

Graeme McDowell could have been speaking for the entire European contingent when he summed up his efforts at this year’s Masters.

The 2010 US Open champion had been part of an in-form expeditionary force, spearheaded by the Ryder Cup team that had triumphed on US soil at Medinah just seven months ago.

Yet like Ian Poulter, Europe’s man at the centre of the Miracle of Medinah in late September, McDowell was throwing the clubs into the boot of his car and making a solemn exit down Magnolia Lane on Friday night.

They, like many of their comrades, had realistic ambitions of contending in the opening major of 2013 but as the week progressed at Augusta National, it became clear that thoughts of a first win for the continent since their captain, Jose Maria Olazabal, won his second green jacket in 1999 would probably have to linger a little while longer.

With Poulter and McDowell out of it and Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy all floundering over the weekend it was left to veterans Lee Westwood and Bernhard Langer to keep alive hopes of victory - and the bright new star of European golf, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen.

The 23-year-old continued an impressive weekend on his Masters debut by making further advances up the leaderboard last night, going to -5 with a birdie at No 15. The Dane, whose first name translates as Thunderbear, had turned for home in his final round in 33 to reach three under. A bogey at the 10th did not deter him as he made a hat-trick of birdies on the par-five 13th, the 14th and the last of the par fives. However, he dropped a shot on the last to finish four under.

Langer’s unlikely bid to become golf’s oldest major champion ignited the final round at an overcast Augusta.

The 55-year-old German – Julius Boros was 48 when he won the 1968 US PGA Championship – birdied the first three holes to improve to five under par and into a share of fourth place.

Of the 27 Europeans who teed off on Thursday in the opening round, 18 - including Olazabal - made it through to the weekend, McDowell falling the wrong side of the cut line, one shot off after rounds of 73 and 76.

“It just didn’t really happen for me the last couple of days, to be honest with you,” McDowell said and it was a refrain echoed by many of his Euro brethren who did make it, following their third rounds.

Saturday really was a tale of European woe at Augusta National as only one player of the 18 remaining in the 61-player field broke par while Southern Hemisphere and American golfers dominated the 54-hole leaderboard.

The one bright spot was Denmark’s Masters debutant Thorbjorn Olesen, who shot a four-under-par 68 early in the day on Saturday to reach level par. By day’s end, only four Europeans were below par for the tournament, starting with Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño at one under following one-over 73s.

The game was not up, of course, with both Langer and Westwood making early inroads, the chance of posting a good final-round score highlighted by 1988 Masters champion Sandy Lyle, who showed amends could be made for a disastrous Saturday when he followed a third-round 81 with a 71 to finish at nine over par. However once again Westwood’s touch on the greens deserted him, and three birdies chances went abegging in the opening nine holes.

Luke Donald had begun Masters week saying it was a tournament and course he thought suited his game but his third-round 75 was not what he had in mind for a third round score and at two over par heading into the final round he was left to rue what might have been with Snedeker and Cabrera so near and yet so far at seven under.

“I felt like I could post something like 70, 68, 69, something around that, really be in with a great position, it’s kind of taunting you that they’re only six or seven shots ahead,” Donald said.

“At a PGA Tour event you still feel very much in the tournament, but around here it’s probably a little bit harder to make up shots. It’s a little frustrating that I wasn’t able to shoot something better today because I certainly played better than my score.”

More in this section


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox