English golfer Oliver Wilson is coming out of some dark times and continued his re-emergence as an elite golfer on Saturday as he fired a five-under-par 67 at Sun City to storm into fourth place, just three shots off the lead, in the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
But he is not trying to regain the game he once had which took him into the top-50 of the world rankings, instead the 39-year-old is trying to completely reinvent himself.
Back in 2008, Wilson was considered an outstanding talent as he was runner-up four times on the European Tour, was chosen for the Ryder Cup and beat Phil Mickelson.
But by 2011 he had lost his European Tour card and in 2014 he considered quitting professional golf.
But then he pulled off an astonishing victory in the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship: playing on a sponsor’s invite he fired a 64 at Carnoustie to hold off Rory McIlroy and Tommy Fleetwood.
It proved a false dawn, however, and in 2016 he lost his card again.
It was last year’s South African Open that marked another turnaround in his fortunes, however, as his top-three finish qualified him for the Open Championship and then the next weekend he finished in the top-five at the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
He has been a pretty consistent performer in the last year, with three top-10 finishes taking him to 64th in the Race to Dubai.
His tour card is very secure.
But in this comeback he has consciously tried to move away from how he played in his greatest period of success a decade ago.
“I’m definitely trying to reinvent myself. I don’t want the game I had 10 years ago because it would drive me insane. Sure, I did well – I was in the top-50 in the world – but it was very stressful and I wasn’t really enjoying my golf. This year I’ve enjoyed my golf more than ever. It’s about having fun and constantly challenging yourself, just trying to improve. It’s like a puzzle you want to solve.
“My career has been up-and-down, I’ve had extreme highs and extreme lows, but now I have some perspective. My little boy is coming up to two years old, having a family made me realise golf is not that important. Things like family, relationships and friends are way more important. Golf still means a lot to me and I enjoy the good times out there because you never know when it will be over, but it’s not the same as 10 years ago,” Wilson told The Citizen on Saturday.
Wilson has admitted that, like a person with a sweet tooth constantly being drawn to the chocolate in the checkout aisles of a supermarket, he used to love trying different things in his golf game, which eventually caused him to lose his swing.
“I’m very inquisitive – I like to learn, and I read a lot and see what other people are doing to try and get better. The downside of that, though, is that it can fill your head with a lot of other things which take you off-track from moving forward. You need people around you who are a sounding board and have experience, who can give you a structure and blueprint and make sure you keep to that. I’ve got those things in place now,” he previously wrote in a player blog for the European Tour website.
“I’ve never been a good driver of the ball and that’s what cost me in the end. So that’s an area of the game that I’m trying to become much better in, while keeping my strengths in my short game and putting. My approach game is better too because I’m fitter and stronger and I’ve played some golf recently that is the golf I always dreamt of playing. That’s what helps drive me forward – knowing I can compete in the biggest tournaments because my good golf is becoming really good, it’s showing me what I can do,” Wilson said on Saturday.