ABU DHABI // It looks like a certain sports manufacturing company in Beaverton, Oregon, might get some bang for their endorsement money this week after all.
Just from a different 23-year-old European, as it turns out.
The world No 1 Rory McIlroy, introduced this week in Abu Dhabi as Nike's new nine-figure pitchman, did not make it to the weekend, having missed the cut. But another young player with plenty of upside has picked up some of the promotional slack.
Denmark's Thorbjorn Olesen, who first attracted global attention with a serious run at last summer's British Open, will play in the final group today alongside Justin Rose, who has a two-stroke lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.
Olesen signed with the swoosh in the off-season, too. Of course, almost nobody outside Denmark noticed.
"He was under a lot of pressure," Olesen said of his popular stablemate, who shot a pair of 75s. "It was probably good for me that nobody concentrated on me and I could do my own thing."
After a lacklustre debut with the new 14-club assortment last week in South Africa, where he finished 31st, Olesen said he "found something" on the range this week at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
"I just started to strike the ball really nicely," he said.
After a 3-under 69 in the third round, he will play for the first time with Rose, though he has played in the final group on Sunday, at his lone European Tour victory, last year in Sicily.
What happens next will be interesting to track, since Olesen has fast proven to be resilient for his age. In the third round of the British Open last summer, he played alongside Tiger Woods, who beat him by a stroke. Olesen eventually finished joint ninth, a heady achievement for a second-year tour player of his age.
"I'm learning in every tournament, and it's been a really good process the last three years," he said. "Hopefully, I can make a few birdies tomorrow and make it exciting."
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