DOHA (Reuters) - Thomas Bjorn believes compatriot Thorbjorn Olesen can become one of the best players in the world after watching the youngster card a four-under-par 68 in the Qatar Masters first round on Wednesday.
"Thorbjorn has everything it takes to become one of the best golfers in the world," Bjorn, the world number 47, told Reuters after posting a 72 alongside the 23-year-old Olesen, whose score put him three behind early leader Ricardo Santos.
Olesen finished in a tie for second in his last outing at the Abu Dhabi Championship where world number one Rory McIlroy and 14-times major winner Tiger Woods both missed the cut.
"That means a lot to hear Thomas say that about me. Thomas and Tiger Woods were my idols when I was a child and first took up the game," world number 42 Olesen told Reuters.
"Over the years Thomas has achieved so much for golf in Denmark, without him I would not be playing nor would the many other young Danes who are now starting to come through."
Bjorn, chairman of the European Tour's Tournament Committee which met last week in Abu Dhabi to decide the Ryder Cup captaincy, has notched up 13 European Tour wins dating back to 1996.
Although Olesen has just the one European Tour win to his name at last year's Sicilian Open, in the next three months he has the chance to live up to Bjorn's billing.
Olesen has qualified for the two World Golf Championship events in the United States in February and March and has his invitation to make his U.S. Masters debut at Augusta in April.
Having cut his major teeth in 2012, when he finished tied for ninth place at the British Open and finished 27th in the PGA Championship, Olesen cannot wait to test himself again.
"After playing in those majors I now know what I have to do to compete at the highest level. Finishing second in Abu Dhabi in a field containing the world's best players has given me confidence," said Olesen.
"Now I am so looking forward to playing in America because I love the atmosphere they have at every tournament."
American golf fans will soon warm to Olesen because he has a strict self-imposed policy of trying to smile his way through every round of golf.
"Playing at the highest level is not going to change me. I am still going to go and enjoy every game," said Olesen.
(Editing by Tom Pilcher)