CONTENTS

Oliver Wilson

Life on the golfing roller-coaster

As he approaches his 40th birthday in September, Oliver Wilson is still as determined as ever to be a force to be reckoned with on the European Tour. Having reached the heights of Ryder Cup action in 2008 and a victory at St Andrews in 2014, Wilson has suffered the lows of sudden losses of form, which required a return to Qualifying School to try and regain his place on the European Tour. He also spent a few seasons on the Challenge Tour.

Back in 2017 he revealed he had considered quitting the game altogether, but he returned to form in 2018 with two victories on the Challenge Tour. He then enjoyed a solid European Tour campaign in 2019, narrowly missing out on a place in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship for the top-50 ranked players in the Race to Dubai.

This year Wilson is ready to kick-start his season on familiar territory having practiced hard during lockdown, and he’s hoping that home advantage will result in favourable performances, starting at this week’s Betfred British Masters.

The UK Swing is being staged at established courses and venues – with your experience on Tour how will this help you?

OW: Well, I’ve played most of the venues before, which always helps. Even without crowds it will still feel like there’s a home advantage, a feeling of comfort. So, I’m pretty excited about playing. It will be like rolling back the years to my amateur days, loading up the car and driving the length of the country going from event to event.

Last September you admitted that even at your best, you never felt like you had a swing you could completely rely on. What processes are you currently going through to try and improve your consistency in the swing?

OW: The journey continues. I’ve been able to work really hard in the areas that needed it most. The lockdown enabled me to experiment a little, try some things differently and see what reactions they created. Also hitting into a net with no outcome was a great process to go through, whilst trying to make some improvements. I worked quite often with my coach Liam James and my trainer Rob Goldup on FaceTime to help enable me to stick to the plan we had created. Through it all, I’ve been able to improve my technique and get faster and stronger, so it will be fun to see how it all comes together.

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Did the lockdown come at a good time for you, in terms of being able to dedicate more time to practice?

OW: Absolutely. As hard as it’s been for many people I was very fortunate to lockdown in the US with my in-laws. We had the space to enjoy ourselves at the lake and also had the room to create a good gym and swing room and really knuckle down to it. Never during my career have I had three months to work on my game without incurring consequences, so it was important to make the most of it. That being said, it was also great to be able to spend so much time with my family without having to travel.

Did your two wins on the Challenge Tour in 2018 help your confidence and where do you rank them in terms of your career achievements?

OW: They meant more than I could ever imagine. You always need to get something back from this game to keep you going and I’d starting to create some momentum, so to get the first win in Sweden was a significant catalyst and gave me a huge shot of energy. The second win, in Ireland, was even more satisfying because I played so well at a very good course in tough conditions. I felt extremely comfortable coming down the last few holes, which was a big step forward for me. It’s hard to rank the wins within my career, but to follow them up last year with four top-5s on the European Tour is what I’m most proud of, considering where I was three years ago. There’s a long way to go to get to where I know I can reach, but I’m enjoying my golf more than ever and I’ll try to enjoy the rest of the journey.

 

 

Winning your first Tour title, at St Andrews in 2014, must have been something special to win at the Home of Golf.

OW: I had finished second at the event in 2009 and ever since then I’d thought how amazing it would be to win at St Andrews. I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint! The whole week was special in that it reignited my career. The way the week played out and how well I played gave me a lot of belief. It was good to know that I had it in me to produce such quality of golf and it was something I’ve drawn on many times since. However, the best part of it was that my wife had flown up on Sunday morning without me knowing. She walked around the place during the final day and I never saw her. But as I walked off the 18th green she was there waiting – which was a bigger shock than me not having to go to a play-off! To be able to share that with her after what had been a somewhat rough few years for us both, was very special.

The 2008 Ryder Cup was obviously a career highlight – what are your memories of that week in Kentucky?

OW: Even though we lost, it was still an amazing week. Holing the winning putt in my foursomes match with Henrik Stenson against Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim was a great memory for my first outing in the Cup. Being in the team room with players I’d grown up watching and admiring was very special. Seeing Boo Weekley ‘riding’ his driver off the 1st tee in the singles is something I’ll never forget!

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If you could have a mulligan on one shot in your career, which would it be and why?

OW: It would have to be my 17th tee shot at Wentworth in 2008 at the BMW PGA Championship. I had a one-shot lead and pushed my ball into the rough, but it bounced right up against a tree. I chipped out and made bogey. I parred the last and went into a play-off with Miguel Angel Jimenez, who had birdied the last, and I ended up losing to another birdie. That loss hurt the most of any tournaments that have slipped by, because I’d done all the hard work – and back in those days, holes 17 and 18 were there for the taking.

Talk us through your practice routine prior to a competitive round on the European Tour?

OW: It depends a little on the start time, but for a morning round I’d aim to have a 30-minute warm-up in the gym with some mobility, power and speed work before heading to the range around an hour before my tee time. I’ll work through my bag refreshing the feelings of each club and getting myself mentally switched on, right up to hitting the driver, which takes about 30 minutes. I follow this with 10 minutes of chipping and bunker play from differing lies, then 10 minutes of putting. The first few putts I’d do with a mirror on the green to calibrate my posture, then work on holing out at pace before heading to the first tee with about seven or eight minutes before my tee-off time.

What are the best and worst aspects to life as a professional golfer on Tour?

OW: The endless journey of seeking improvement. There’s a real sense of direction and focus which can be incredibly rewarding. Experiencing the feelings of winning or coming down the last few holes in contention or just doing something special and taming the nerves, really makes you learn about yourself. It’s very fulfilling – if not short-lived! The travel and the endless hours wasted in airports and planes are pretty bad but by far the worst is the time you lose away from the family.

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Quick fire questions:

The most valued club you have every owned?

Odyssey Sabertooth putter.

The most prized piece of golfing memorabilia you own?

The Alfred Dunhill Links trophy followed closely by The Ryder Cup.

At what age did you first break par for a round?

I was 13 on an 18-hole course.

Who was the first famous golfer you got to meet?

Sir Nick Faldo.

Which golfer makes you laugh the most?

David Howell.