• Played in 2008 Ryder Cup but had lost form.
• Started last week ranked 792nd in the world.
• "I could be drunk for a while," admits new champ.
ALFRED DUNHILL LINKS
Starting the week 792nd on the world rankings and outside the top 100 on the Challenge Tour rankings, Oliver Wilson produced a gutsy final round display to claim his first European Tour title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The 34-year-old Englishman, who represented Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup, had finished runner-up nine times on the tour between 2006 and 2009, climbing into the world’s top 50 in the process.
However, a dramatic loss of form saw him lose his card at the end of 2012 and he has toiled somewhat since then.
This breakthrough win, though, affords him the luxury of a two-year exemption to the tour, as well as a cheque for €625,787.
“I don’t have words for it,” said an emotional Wilson afterwards. “It’s been ten, 11 years coming. There were nine runners-up and I hadn’t done a whole lot to lose those but nothing had really gone my way and this week, to be given a big opportunity by Dunhill to play – I can’t thank them enough to give me an opportunity to do this – I guess it’s what golf’s all about.
“Before I went out today, I thought about how I’ve never gone out and won a tournament. I’ve played alright coming down the stretch and not lost it and other guys have just got over the line ahead of me and today I was just trying to be patient.”
The Englishman took a three-shot lead into the final round but was swiftly caught by former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen when he three-putted the fourth for bogey.
He had to wait until the tenth for his first birdie of the day, by which time Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and world No.1 Rory McIlroy were all battling him for the title.
“I could be drunk for a while – I’ve had a lot of champagne on ice over the years!” - Oliver Wilson
A second birdie from ten feet at the 11th kept Wilson in the thick of the action, and when long-time leader Ramsay bogeyed the 16th and 17th, he was able to take advantage. A brilliant approach to the 16th from 220 yards yielded a tap-in birdie that gave him the lead back and, after making a mess of the 17th, he produced a superb pitch to salvage par.
A missed birdie putt at the last by Wilson gave Fleetwood a chance to force a play-off but, when he missed from six feet, Wilson was a champion at the 288th time of asking.
“When I came into the week I was almost just trying to make the cut,” he added. “I got going and played good in practice and knew I was capable of putting a good tournament together but you’re never sure if it’s going to happen.
“I could be drunk for a while – I’ve had a lot of champagne on ice over the years!”
Joint runner-up Ramsay, meanwhile, was magnanimous in defeat.
“If you're going to lose to someone, you'd like to lose to Ollie,” said the Aberdonian. “He's a nice guy, down-to-earth and, obviously, he's gone through a tough time the last two or three years, or even this year. And to pull that off, at St Andrews, under intense pressure knowing what it means to him to put him back on The European Tour, it's life changing. All credit to him.”
Ramsay’s fellow Scot Doak was a further shot adrift in fifth place, which effectively secured his card for next season, whilst Paul Lawrie finished in a tie for 18th to notch his best finish since January.
Oliver Wilson continues maiden winners’ streak
The win by Oliver Wilson in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship made him the tenth first-time winner of the 2014 European Tour season.