Oliver Wilson could do no wrong four years ago. This year, he could do nothing right.
The good news is the Englishman says he’s looking to forward to the 2014 season to get back to where he belongs – in the elite circles of European and world golf.
Wilson played on the 2008 European Ryder Cup team. A year later he finished ninth on the European Tour’s Order of Merit. He reached No. 35 in the world. He finished second nine times on the European Tour.
Surely, a win was just around the corner.
Failing to win was part of the problem. The frustration sent the former Augusta State player looking for answers. He ended up with more questions. He is currently World No. 507, and has been as low as 712th. He does not have a full card for next year’s European Tour.
“Unfortunately, the frustration of not winning grew from finishing second so many times and not winning made me look at other areas to try and improve and win,” Wilson said. “I let too many people get into my head. As a golfer you can’t let too many people inside your head.”
The 2003 Walker Cup player finished 48th on the 2010 European money list. He dropped to 130th in 2011 and lost his European Tour card. In 2012, he finished 137th.
He spent most of his time on the European Challenge Tour this year. It wasn’t a huge success, but at least he managed to salvage his season after a disastrous start.
He missed the cut in his first nine events. He finally played a weekend in June when he placed T-52 in the Scottish Hydro Challenge. His stroke average during those nine tournaments was 75.38. Included in that average was a high score of 85, and two 81s.
“The first half of the year was horrific,” Wilson said. “I can’t really describe how bad it was other than to say it was embarrassing.”
So embarrassing that Wilson couldn’t get the ball in play.
“My driving was horrific,” he said. “I was hitting four fairways a round. Half of my missed fairways the ball was out of play.”
Things got so bad Wilson was scared to put the ball on a tee. He resorted to hitting driver off the deck just to try and get the ball in play.
“My big fault with my driver is I lose my posture and stand up out of the ball. So obviously when you hit it off the deck you have to keep your posture or you’ll miss it or top it. So it’s been a good sort of drill exercise that I’ve incorporated into my game.”
The 33-year-old rallied to make the cut in eight of his last 13 events, posting two top 10s. He was runner-up in the Northern Ireland Open Challenge and fifth in the Kazakhstan Open. He eventually placed 42nd on the Challenge Tour money list and finished the year with a 71.94 stroke average.
He just missed out on a European Tour card at the Q-School by two shots. So it’s the Challenge Tour again this year, but Wilson says he’s in a better frame of mind than 12 months ago.
“I had some serious doubts about what was going on and what was going to happen, so to come through that is a big positive,” Wilson said.
“The last three months I played pretty solid golf. I got in contention a few times. The confidence is returning and I played well under pressure at times. I feel as if I’ve turned the corner and I’m moving forward again.”
He’ll move forward this time by doing things on his own. He’s learned the hard way that too many voices can get him in big trouble.
“It’s been a big learning curve for me,” he said. “Going forward I’m going to go back to just being me, just trusting me and making sure I do what’s right, not what other people tell me is right.
“We all feel there is a formula for the model professional. I’ve been down that route and I know it’s actually rubbish. I’ve learned enough and spent enough time with top players to know what I need to do.”
Wilson is hoping to emulate the success of players like Edoardo Molinari, Brooks Koepka, Peter Uihlein and Andrea Pavan and use the Challenge Tour as a stepping-stone back to the European Tour.
“I put myself in this position and I can’t complain,” he said. “The best thing is just to play well and everything should take care of itself. It’s in my hands. I know that if I’m playing decent golf then I’m going to be right there. I’m pretty confident that I can come through and get my card.
“I’ve had doubts, but I don’t now. It’s only a matter time.”