Oliver Wilson on upswing after losing Euro Tour card, confidence 

CASTLEBLANEY, IRELAND - OCTOBER 07: Oliver Wilson of England lines up a putt on the 1st hole during day four of the Monaghan Irish Challenge event at Concra Wood Golf Club on October 7, 2018 in Castleblaney, Ireland. (Photo by Luke Walker/Getty Images) Luke Walker/Getty Images

Oliver Wilson on upswing after losing Euro Tour card, confidence 

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Oliver Wilson on upswing after losing Euro Tour card, confidence 

Oliver Wilson isn’t the first to experience golf’s fickle nature. He won’t be the last.

The former Augusta State player was at this year’s Ryder Cup. Ten years after making his debut in the biennial match, Wilson was back inside the ropes as an on-course analyst for BBC Radio 5Live.

Perhaps Europe’s victory at Le Golf National inspired the 38-year-old Englishman to win last week’s Monaghan Irish Challenge. Wilson returned scores of 69, 70, 68 and 69 for a 12-under 276 to win by two shots. It was his second European Challenge Tour win of the season following the Swedish Challenge in August. The victory moves him to 15th on the Challenge Tour order of merit, with the top 15 gaining full cards on next year’s European Tour.

“It was hard work today and a proper grind,” Wilson said. “I was delighted to come through it. I could’ve made it easier for myself but instead made it a little tricky when I was coming down the stretch.

“I had to keep hitting good shots and I managed to do that, and it wasn’t too stressful coming up the last.”

Wilson’s journey from elite amateur/college golf to Ryder Cupper to European Tour winner to card loser is a seminal lesson for anyone who thinks making the Ryder Cup is recipe for future success. It isn’t. The 2003 Walker Cup player knows all about the ups and downs of this game. He can relate to Horace Hutchinson’s belief that “there is no game that strips the soul so naked.”

The affable Wilson made the 2008 European Ryder Cup team courtesy of steady golf that saw him record seven second-place finishes in three seasons, including four in 2008 that helped him finish 11th on the European money list. One of those seconds was a playoff loss to Miguel Angel Jimenez in the BMW PGA Championship, then the European Tour’s flagship event.

He was never going to play a lot in the 2008 Ryder Cup because of his rookie status, but he acquitted himself well. He and Henrik Stenson came from four down in foursomes to defeat Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim. Wilson then lost to Boo Weekley in singles.

Wilson notched another two seconds in 2009 and finished seventh on the money list. It seemed only a matter of time before he got the W he so richly deserved. Instead, he lost his way.

Wilson failed to keep his card after the 2012 season. He struggled for another 18 months before finally getting that first win, taking the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. However, he was back at the Q School in 2016 after two dismal seasons in which he made just 15 cuts in 53 tournaments.

Wilson not only lost his game, he lost his confidence. Things got so bad he struggled to get the ball off the tee.

“I can’t really describe how bad it was other than to say it was embarrassing,” he told Golfweek. “My driving was horrific. I was hitting four fairways a round. Half of my missed fairways the ball was out of play.”

Things got so bad Wilson resorted to hitting driver off the ground in the hope of hitting a sort of squeeze cut to try to get the ball in play.

He was upbeat at Le Golf National as he mingled with his media brethren for the week.

“My game’s good at the minute,” he said when asked about his chances of getting back on the main tour. “I’m playing well. If I can get into the (Ras Khaimah Challenge Tour) Grand Final, then I fancy myself to finish top 15.”

Wilson’s second win makes him a certainty for a place in the Challenge Tour finale. However, he might have sewn up his top-15 status and a 2019 European Tour card long before then.

He’ll receive a warm welcome back to the world’s second-best professional circuit. Gwk

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