The Dane put a series of injury problems behind him to card seven birdies – including three in a row at 15, 16 and 17 – and he kept a bogey off his card to finish the opening day one shot ahead of fast-finishing Daniel Brooks.
The days leading up to the tournament have been dominated by the unfortunate and ill-timed ankle injury suffered by world No 1 Rory McIlroy, who confirmed on Wednesday that he had withdrawn from the 144th Open next week, and it was perhaps fitting that Olesen should make headlines of his own at Gullane.
The 25-year-old, who was sidelined for three months after undergoing surgery on a tendon problem in his left hand in February, had sympathy for McIlroy as he was also injured in bizarre circumstances last year when he hurt himself while dismounting from a camel in Dubai.
“I was with a few mates and went on a camel and when I had to jump down I just pulled a muscle in my groin,” Olesen admitted. “It took a few weeks before I could properly walk again. But that’s what happens. You’ve got to have a little bit of fun.
“I know of a lot of footballers had to stop because they had groin problems.??It can come any minute almost so I just keep training in the gym and keep??getting results and stretching and hopefully it will not come back.
“I know Rory has very good people around him, so I’m sure he’ll get ready very??soon.”
“It’s been a tough time for me over the last year, but I keep working on the right things and hopefully it will come. I showed today I can still shoot low rounds. I hit almost every green – only missing the 18th – and hit a lot of fairways, which was the key.”
The biggest threat to Olesen’s lead came from the final group of the day as Brooks, who ended a run of 13 consecutive missed cuts in France last week, birdied three of the last five holes to cap an error-free 64.
American Ryder Cup player Jimmy Walker is among a group of seven players on five under along with English trio Matthew Nixon, Richard Finch and Seve Benson, while defending champion Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell, Shane Lowry, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar are the big names at four under par.
Even three-putt bogeys on the last two holes could not dampen McDowell’s??enthusiasm for a welcome return to form in the week he slipped out of the??world’s top 50 for the first time in five years.
McDowell has not had a top-10 finish on the European Tour since February and missed the cut while bidding for a third straight Open de France title last week, but he and coach Pete Cowen have been studying videos of his swing from his golden year in 2010, when he won the US Open and earned the winning point in a thrilling Ryder Cup.
“I’m trying to get back to basics and we have narrowed my stance and used my body to swing the club how I used to,” McDowell added. “I feel as if in an attempt to improve some things in my technique, I’ve actually got worse.
“It was also nice to get back on a course that gives you a few opportunities??in benign conditions. I just need a few low numbers to get my belief and??confidence back and today will go a long way towards that.”
Rose admitted he was beginning to lose his patience after letting a number of??opportunities slip, but birdied the 16th and responded to a bogey on the 17th??with another birdie from 20 feet on the last.
And the resulting 66 certainly justified his decision to practice at St Andrews??on Monday and Tuesday this week and rely on caddie Mark Fulcher to plot a route??around Gullane.
“He’s doing the hard work and making my schedule a lot easier,” Rose said.??”It was a pretty stress-free round and I did not burn up too much energy out??there.”
Almost half the 156-strong field broke par with five-time major champion Phil??Mickelson – who won the Open one mile down the road at Muirfield in 2013 -??carding a 69 after struggling on the greens.