Oliver Wilson took the long way to win his first European Tour title at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Not only did the 34-year-old Brit go 227 events into his professional career before his first victory, he also had to hold off Rory McIlroy in a nail-biter at the home of golf -- St. Andrews -- to do it.
It wasn't until McIlroy putted into the Road Hole bunker on the 17th hole and made bogey that Wilson was a shot clear. Wilson controlled his emotions -- and his game -- to close out the tournament and complete a career renaissance. Ranked 792nd in the world, Wilson lost his card two years ago and was playing on a sponsor's exemption. He wasn't even in the top 100 on the European Tour's minor-league circuit before cashing his $800,000 first-place check and earning a two-year European Tour exemption.
"Oliver Wilson is the quintessential journeyman, and a great example of how perseverance and grit are rewarded," says top Illinois teacher Joe Bosco. "He found the winner's circle for the first time because he was able to control his emotions and control the trajectory of his iron shots on a cold, windy day."
Wearing a stocking cap and a long-sleeve undershirt, Wilson showed off a variety of short-backswing wedges and short irons Sunday. He hit low-trajectory shots that bounced, check and rolled on St. Andrews' famously large and undulating greens.
"Oliver used the big muscles of the body to control his swing, which both produces a lower-flying shot and also makes for a more pressure-proof motion," Bosco says. "It's a pivot-centric swing that uses the body to bring the club through with forward shaft lean -- the shaft leaning toward the target. Amateurs usually do the opposite, which is they get the arms and hands over-involved and flip the ball up in the air or skull it.
"To hit shots like these, set up with the ball centered and your weight favoring your lead leg," Bosco says. "Let your arms follow your body turn back and through. Instead of feeling like you're stretching your arms out after impact and swinging high into the air, let them move passively around your body and end up near your left hip. Nobody hits any shot with their follow-through."