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Oliver Wilson

‘I’m trying to reinvent myself’: The remarkable return of Wilson

A year ago Oliver Wilson was missing out at Q School. Now, with a little perspective, the former Ryder Cup player is working his way back to the big leagues
 

Oliver Wilson’s season is done. It finished with an 82 in Sun City, his worst round of the year, and it meant that he missed out on the chance of the season-ending riches of Dubai this week. Going by the appearances of scores and leaderboards it looks like the 39-year-old messed up at the final hurdle, for my money Wilson would easily be a contender for Player of the Year.

Twelve months ago Wilson was missing out at Q School having just finished outside the top 15 on the Challenge Tour. Now he’s embarking on a very promising second part of his career.

For a time Wilson’s star was very much on the rise, a time which resulted in a Ryder Cup debut at Valhalla in 2008 – he played Boo Weekley in the singles when the American made the most bizarre exit from a tee – but there was never the much-anticipated win. Then the victory came out of the blue at the Dunhill Links but the foundations still weren’t there.

In his European Tour blog in September he wrote: “When I was at my worst I took nine tee shots in five holes in a Challenge Tour event. The struggle has always been my driver. At my worst I couldn’t hit a fairway, I couldn’t even get it in the semi rough. I was averaging five or six tee shots out of play during a tournament.”

Now, with the help of a bit of perspective by becoming a dad nearly two years ago and having a trusted team around him to encourage but also focus his ‘inquisitive mind’, they are. What’s made Wilson’s season so spectacular is how he’s taken his opportunities and, in his own words, switched things around so well.

“I’m definitely trying to reinvent myself. I don’t want the game I had 10 years ago because it would drive me insane.”

Last December he got into the South African Open, via his Challenge Tour ranking, and finished 3rd which got him into the Alfred Dunhill the following week and the Open Championship at Royal Portrush. At Leopard Creek he recorded another top five.

In Qatar he was the last man in and tied for second. A fourth top 10 of the season at Hillside got him to Denmark where he was fourth. He didn’t need to tee it up once on the Challenge Tour, instead starting 27 times on the main one.

All through the dips Wilson has always said yes to any request, be it an interview or instruction shoot or whatever it is. He’s always honest and normal and, even when a PR type hasn’t filled him in, he’ll just sit down and chat. Which makes all of this all the more pleasing.

On Saturday he spoke with Nick Dougherty and we got a lovely insight into the ups and downs of being a tour pro.

“We played a lot of golf in the down times and I remember a few rounds where we both walked off and no words were needed. We just looked at each other and said see you tomorrow. I guess that gives you perspective.

“When you have family, you realise golf is really not that important, and it’s something you do. I think after 15 years on Tour, we don’t appreciate it – a lot of us say we do but I don’t think we do. It’s still a phenomenal thing that we get to do, so I just try to appreciate it and keep working hard.”

Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

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