Oliver Wilson is hoping to hit a perfectly-timed hot streak of form as the former Ryder Cup player arrives at this week’s Kharkov Superior Open looking to better his runner-up finish in Northern Ireland two weeks ago.
The Englishman was defeated in a play-off by young Dutchman Daan Huizing at the Northern Ireland Open Challenge Presented by Clannah and XJET, but it was nevertheless his best finish on the Challenge Tour since 2004.
It marks a return to the kind of form which earned him a place in Nick Faldo’s 2008 Ryder Cup team and with this week’s €200,000 event in Ukraine followed by the lucrative Kazakhstan Open next week, it may have come at the most opportune time.
“I had a week’s break after Northern Ireland and did a bit of work with my coach,” said the 32 year old. “There is a lot of positive stuff to take from the last event. It was nice to play well again and I just want to try and continue that this week, keep doing what I've been doing and see what happens.
“This will be a good two-week trip and it’s a big two weeks, approaching the end of the season and I need to play well obviously. But my game is in good shape so I'm looking forward to the week and hopefully I can do well.”
The last two years have generally been a struggle for Wilson after losing his European Tour card in 2012 for the first time since earning it via the Challenge Tour in 2004, but he fed off the energy of the big crowds in Northern Ireland and feels like he has plenty of support from golf fans hoping to see him back to his best.
“I think it helped that the tournament in Northern Ireland was such a good event,” he said. “It felt like a European Tour event with a lot of people there, more so than some of the main tour tournaments. That was really nice.
“There were a lot of people following me and pulling for me which helped. I have been playing well for the last two months but not getting much from it. Maybe my confidence needed building.
“On Sunday I was really pleased with how I played under pressure. I needed to take advantage of being up there but I didn’t expect a lot because I hadn’t been in contention for a long time. But to play like I did then and grind it out and hole some putts when I needed to gave me loads of confidence. It felt really good coming down those last few holes knowing I was in the mix.
“It was really nice after Ireland, how many messages of support I got. It meant a lot just to know there are so many people actually paying attention. When you ‘fall off the planet’ as I did, I just work away and nothing changes there but the outside influences disappear a little bit and you don’t hear from a lot of people because they haven’t got a lot to congratulate you on.
“To have a week like that and see how many people got in touch, it was really nice and meant a lot. That gives you confidence too, to know that people are still out there supporting you.”
Wilson and Huizing both join a very strong field at the Superior Golf and Spa Resort in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov as the race for the season-ending Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final hosted by Al Badia Golf Club intensifies.
Andrea Pavan is chasing a third Challenge Tour victory this year, which would secure the Italian’s automatic path to The European Tour, after his runaway victory at the Open Blue Green Côtes d'Armor Bretagne last week.
François Calmels is also chasing a third win of the season while nine more 2013 winners on the Challenge Tour schedule are present.
Andriy Shevchenko, the former AC Milan and Chelsea striker, is one of the main attractions this week as he makes his Challenge Tour debut on home soil after making the switch from football to golf.
The former European Player of the Year, who plays off a handicap of two, is joined by another Eastern European sporting legend in Russia’s Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the former World Number One tennis player who is a member at Superior Golf and Spa Resort.