Debutant Olesen leads the way for Europeans

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 5:04am


Debutant Thorbjorn Olesen finished as the top European as once again no one managed to match Jose Maria Olazabal's victory in 1999.

The 23-year-old Dane has emerged in the last year as a potential major winner, playing well at last year's British Open and breaking into the top 50, thus punching his ticket to Augusta National for the first time.

He opened poorly with a 78, but got better as he grew more familiar with the demands of the famed Georgia layout.

In the final round, Olesen suddenly appeared on the leaderboard with a run of birdies at a time when others were struggling to cope with the steady rain that was falling.

He shot a 68 and at four over finished as top European, five strokes off the pace.

"I love it. It's a dream for me. It's lovely to be here at a major and especially at the Masters. It's a great golf course and the atmosphere here is amazing," he said.

Olesen nearly missed the event after he was involved in a car crash last month that left him with a stiff neck. The injury was still slightly bothering him as the week started but he said it improved after that.

"Yeah, it's definitely not the best preparation for this week. But I felt like before the accident that I played some great golf the whole year, in Europe and in the Middle East," he said.

"So I came into this week with a lot of confidence, but I knew that it was going to be tough with the last week that I had. But it turned out to be very good after the first day."

Olesen's emergence was some small compensation for another failure on the part of Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia to win a major title in emulation of Rory McIlroy's US Open and PGA Championship wins.

Westwood had chances early on in the final round but failed to take them as once again his chipping and putting let him down.

After carding a 71 he finished tied for eighth, six strokes adrift, while Rose and Donald vanished off the leaderboard.

Donald said Augusta National would always be a tough assignment for him given its punishing length, although he had not totally given up hope.

"I think it's always going to be tougher for a guy that hits it my distance," he said. "As important as short game is around here, some shots, no matter how good, you just can't get it close.

"So going into these greens with less club, the margins are very fine. If you're going in with an eight-iron compared to a five-iron, it makes it a little bit easier.

"But I still hold out hope. Seeing someone like Brandt Snedeker, who has a similar game to me, doing well, I have confidence."