Oliver Wilson produced a gutsy final round display to finally claim a maiden European Tour title and reignite his career at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The 34 year old Englishman represented Europe at the 2008 Ryder Cup and was a nine-time runner-up on The European Tour between 2006 and 2009, reaching the top 50 on The Official World Golf Ranking in the process.
But a dramatic loss of form saw him lose his card at the end of 2012, and he started the week outside the top 100 on The Challenge Tour and 792nd in the world.
A second round 63 in Kazakhstan last month hinted that the talent was still there, and Wilson began the day with a three shot lead after taking command of the tournament with a 64 at Carnoustie on Thursday before pulling clear with Saturday’s 65 at St Andrews.
Returning to The Old Course for the final round, the tournament invite, who had made around €20,000 in 19 appearances across the Challenge Tour and European Tour this season, was swiftly caught by Louis Oosthuizen when he three-putted the fourth for bogey.
He had to wait until the tenth for his first birdie of the day, by which time Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and World Number One Rory McIlroy were all battling for the title.
A second birdie from ten feet at the 11th kept Wilson in the thick of the action, and when long-time leader Ramsay bogeyed the 16th and 17th, he was able to take advantage.
A brilliant approach to the 16th from 220 yards yielded a tap-in birdie that gave him the lead back, and after making a mess of the 17th he produced a superb pitch to salvage par.
A missed birdie putt at the last gave Fleetwood a chance to force a play-off, but when he missed from six feet Wilson was a champion at last with a closing 70 and 17 under total, earning €625,787 in the process.
A clearly emotional Wilson said: “I don’t have words for it. It’s been ten years, 11 years coming. There were nine runners-up and I hadn’t done a whole lot to lose those, but nothing had really gone my way and this week, to be given a big opportunity by Dunhill to play – I can’t thank them enough to give me an opportunity to do this – I guess it’s what golf’s all about.
“Before I went out today I thought about how I’ve never gone out and won a tournament. I’ve played alright coming down the stretch and not lost it and other guys have just got over the line ahead of me and today I was just trying to be patient.
“I got off to a good start ball-striking wise but a couple of three-putts and you think ‘here we go’ but I stayed patient. The course was tricky with the wind, Rory was in front and I could keep an eye on what he was doing and Tommy was playing good as well.
“I played some great shots on the back nine, you feel like when you turn back into the wind that your opportunity has probably gone because it’s hard to make some birdies.
”I made a great save at 14 and the shot I hit into 16 was probably the best shot of my life. 17 was hard work and at the last Tommy had putted well and I thought he was going to make that.
“I’ve been playing pretty well. Robert Rock – I went to see him two weeks ago and I shot a course record in Kazakhstan. He’s worked with me all week, spent a lot of time with me, helped me a lot with my swing and given me the confidence to go and play.
“When I came into the week I was almost just trying to make the cut! I got going and played good in practice and knew I was capable of putting a good tournament together but you’re never sure if it’s going to happen.
“Carnoustie shooting eight under round there gave me some confidence and my confidence grew each day. I’ve got good memories round here – I finished second a few years ago alongside Rory when Simon Dyson won – so I knew what I had to do and I stood up and hit some really good shots today. So my confidence from where it’s been the last few of years is in a very different place right now.
“I could be drunk for a while – I’ve had a lot of champagne on ice over the years!”
Wilson was not the only player delighted with his win, with former Ryder Cup team-mate Ian Poulter tweeting: “I can't tell you how happy every player on Tour will be for Oliver Wilson winning the Dunhill Links. It's been a long road back. Congrats.”
Fleetwood, McIlroy and Ramsay finished tied for second on 16 under, with Chris Doak – who began the week 115th on The Race to Dubai – securing his future with sole possession of fifth a shot further back.
The fact World Number One McIlroy contended at all was remarkable given he found the burn in front of the green with his approach to the first and ran up a double bogey.
Four straight birdies followed, however, and a fifth win of the season looked to be on the cards when a couple of superb approaches to the tenth and 12th yielded further gains.
But having missed the green at the famous 17th he putted his third into the Road Hole bunker to extinguish his chances with a bogey en route to an eventful 68.
“Where I feel like I cost myself the tournament today was probably in the space of about 20 yards at the front of the green at the first and over at the Road Hole bunker,” said the Northern Irishman. “They are not too far away from each other and they are the two things, the only mistakes that I made all day.
“I love this golf course. I feel like I play well here every time I tee it up, so I’m looking forward to obviously coming back here in July and defending The Open Championship.”