European Tour wannabes began their quest for a 2015 European Tour card by kicking off the 2014 European Challenge Tour in Kenya, where Jake Roos won by a shot over a trio tied for second. Here are 5 Things to know from the Barclays Kenya Open.
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1. WILSON’S COMEBACK STALLS: Oliver Wilson’s comeback is still on hold after his season debut. Wilson showed promise early only to revert to the type of form that has seen him tumble down the European pecking order.
The Englishman finished joint 17th to earn €2,343, but he should have been vying for victory. Wilson opened with rounds of 69 and 68 to be just one shot off the lead. However, a third-round 78 put paid to his chances. He got back into the 60s in the final round with a 69, but he was in damage-limitation mode by then.
The former Augusta State player is trying to get his career back on track after a horrendous few seasons. He reached a high in 2008 when he played in the Ryder Cup at Valhalla. A year later he finished ninth on the European Tour’s order of merit. He reached No. 35 in the world. By that time he had finished second nine times on the European Tour. A win was surely 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 ranked No. 527, and has been as low as No. 712. He hasn’t had a full European Tour card since 2011.
“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 told Golfweek late last year. “I let too many people get into my head.”
As a result he’s going to cut down on running to so-called “experts” every time he plays poorly.
“It’s been a big learning curve for me. 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.
“I put myself in this position and I can’t complain. The best thing is just to play well and everything should take care of itself. It’s in my hands.”
So it was a good finish in Kenya for Wilson, but he let it slip through his fingers in round three. The comeback is still on hold.
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2. ROOS MAKES CAREER CHANGE: Jake Roos has spent his entire career on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour, but he’s about to make a career change after his 10-under-par total of 278 gave him a one-shot victory over Denmark’s Lasse Jensen, Adrian Bernadet of France and Spaniard Pedro Oriol.
The 32-year-old Roos isn’t a European Challenge Tour member but is set to pay his joining fee to give himself a chance of a European Tour card. The €32,000 he earned takes him to the top of the order of merit.
“It’s unbelievable,” the three-time Sunshine Tour winner said. “It’s a great privilege to have been able to play in this event, so to actually win it and be able to play some events in Europe is just huge for me.
“I’ve only been playing on the Sunshine Tour to this point, so it’s a real career changer for me.”
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3. KEMNER FINISHES T-5: Former Stanford player Dodge Kemner got his season off to a good start with a fifth-place finish. His 7-under-par total was just three shots behind Roos, and earned him a check for €6,960.
The 26-year-old played 17 events on the Challenge Tour last year and finished 82nd on the money list. The Denver native has also played on the Asian Tour since turning professional in 2010.
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4. DOUGHERTY, DAVIES MISS CUT: Nick Dougherty’s travails continued with a missed cut after scores of 81 and 77. The Englishman is a three-time European Tour winner who lost his card in 2011 and has been struggling to get it back.
Former East Tennessee State player Rhys Davies joined Dougherty on the early flight home. He logged scores of 72 and 79. He won the Trophee Hassan II in 2010 but has not been able to build on the victory. He lost his card in 2012 and is still trying to win it back.
The cut fell at plus three.
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5. TIME TO KILL: The European Tour’s second tier now has a month off. The Challenge Tour doesn’t resume until April 3-6 with the NH Collection Open in Southern Spain, a new event that counts on the main tour, too