David Taylor reflects on Oliver Wilson’s victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – a feel-good story we can all take inspiration from
The golf headlines usually die down in the weeks following the Ryder Cup but the Lazarus-style comeback that Oliver Wilson had over the weekend has given the game a few more days of exposure.
Players were queuing up to share their delight for Wilson, whose well-documented slump saw him lose his European Tour card in 2011 and drop to 792 in the world.
His first title after nine runner-up spots, combined with his obvious popularity on Tour, make this a feel-good story rare to any sport, let alone golf.
It all looked so easy for Wilson in 2008 when he registered four second places, the closest ending in defeat to Miguel Angel Jiménez in a play-off at the BMW PGA Championship.
This form earned him a spot on the Ryder Cup team for Valhalla, where the highlight for Wilson was a comeback from four down to defeat Anthony Kim and Phil Mickelson with Henrik Stenson.
Just 28 at the time, Wilson appeared to be set for a long career at the top, but, after another solid season in 2009, his fall from grace was as dramatic as his victory at St Andrews.
He had considered quitting the game for good earlier this year but a sponsor’s invite to the Dunhill Championship has now resurrected his career.
As well as the trophy he pocketed £489,416 and rocketed himself up to 39th in the Race to Dubai.
Compare this to his last outing in September – where he earned just over £1,500 for a tied 47th finish at the Kazakhstan Open – and his performance seems even more remarkable.
Speaking after his triumph, Wilson shed some light on just how bad things had got.
Confidence was so low he had been hitting his driver off the deck for 18 months to get it in play. He revealed he had stood on the 18th tee in Kazakhstan safe in the knowledge he wouldn’t hit the fairway.
His claims of hitting the ball brilliantly on the range but being clueless on the course must resonate with golfers of all standards up and down the land.
Wilson’s story, along with countless other examples of athletes losing their mojo, show just how much of sport is played in the mind.
His fantastic recovery should give us all hope that, no matter how bad it gets, a return to top form can be just around the corner.