Five years on from his sole European Tour victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Oliver Wilson opens up about the rollercoaster ride he has been on since then in this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
Simply put, a lot has happened since my win here in 2014. Overall it was a poor year for me, but I started working with Robert Rock two weeks before the Dunhill, and in a very short space of time things clicked and I was able to take advantage of an invite here and win. That gave me a huge boost. I was still struggling but it was just during that week various things aligned which enabled me to win. The foundation of my game wasn’t there, though, and I continued to try and get my swing better after that – it’s always been my swing that I’ve struggled with. I tried to play as much as I could and build momentum, but sadly the results didn’t come. I was getting the right information, but I wasn’t putting it all together.
After that I really struggled for a few years. I moved coach, I tried to change my whole set up, and it wasn’t until 2016 when I started to get things back on track. I started working with Rob Goldup again, someone I used to work with in 2011. He helped me get things back on track and was hugely influential in helping me on and off the course, looking after the mental side of things too. James Ridyard also came on board as my coach, and he made such a difference in improving my swing. I started to build a solid team around me and that created a better environment, and I was starting to hit good shots again. In 2018 my form picked up winning twice on the Challenge Tour, and everything was moving in the right direction. After I won in Sweden on the Challenge Tour, I took on Max Bill who has been really good on the bag. He’s great to have around and I feel he’s invested in what I’m working towards too. He’s enthusiastic about everything, and we’re very much a team out there. You’re out there for a long time nowadays, so it’s really important to have the right people around you otherwise you can feel very alone.
I just missed out on my European Tour card last year and felt a bit unlucky, but it was more about putting together the right environment and foundation to weather any storms that came. The momentum I had from 2018 I took into this year, and I committed early to playing on the European Tour as much as I could and got off to a great start, with two top fives in South Africa before Christmas. What was most encouraging was to back it up in the new year with a couple more top fives. I’ve always lacked the ability to play well over a sustained period, which is what I saw other top players do, so it was great to be able to put together a stretch like that.
When I was at my worst, I took nine tee shots in five holes in a Challenge Tour event and I knew after that my tournament was over. The struggle, for me, has always been my driver – I’ve never driven brilliantly but I was always straight. At my worst I couldn’t hit a fairway, I couldn’t even get it in the semi rough. I was averaging five or six tee shots out of play during a tournament. When you’re hitting it that bad there’s nowhere to go. It doesn’t matter how well you chip or putt, how good your short game is, you’re trying to get up and down for doubles. It’s a very hard place to play from and it takes its emotional toll on you. It’s a ruthless sport. But that was a long time ago, and I’ve put that period behind me and feel more confident of what’s ahead.
If I’m honest, I think a lot of people wrote me off. That’s understandable if you just looked at the results I was putting in. Golf is so black and white. Even when you’re playing well, people forget two weeks after you’ve had a victory that you ever won in the first place. It moves on so fast because there are so many tournaments, so you can imagine how many people forget about you when you’re struggling. When I started to show a little bit of form a lot of people got in touch to show their support. That was really nice, knowing that people were there who were still pulling for me. That’s what makes me so proud of where I am now. I didn’t need to prove it to myself, but I’m so glad that I have shown myself I can come back from that and that deep down I have that strength of character.
I have always had the desire to keep going, but now I am experienced enough to realise what I’m lacking and where I went wrong in the past. I understand the personality I have, and I need people around me who will keep pushing me in the right direction. I have a great support network at home which has helped me keep going, and I now have people around me who keep nudging me back on track and on the direction we have planned. 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 put things in place now which means I can do that – that’s why golf is a lot more exciting now, and a lot more fun!
I know I’m capable of playing at the highest level, but I’ve never had a swing that I could completely rely on – even when I was in the top 50 in the world. It was always a battle to play well, even when I was at my highest in the world rankings. Now I feel like, hopefully, my good golf is getting to the point where I can get back to that level. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still so much work to be done, but I feel that I’m on the right path to having the best swing of my career. That’s why I’m so excited now, I feel so much more relaxed, because I know that I am getting the right information and I am on the path to getting better. I’m very proud of what this year has been to date, but there are a lot of people ahead of me and I know I can do better. I’m in a position to make this a really strong year so I’m looking forward to the last few months.
I want to keep playing for another ten years and try and go as far as I can and be more successful than I ever have before. It’s been an interesting journey, and I hope the second part of my career is interesting too – hopefully in a more positive way! I feel that I am capable of winning again. I’ve put the work in, and after winning the Dunhill and experiencing what that feels like – it was very special to do it at St Andrews of course – I know the feeling of winning is so special, but it also goes so fast. Obviously I haven’t had that since 2014, so I would love to be able to look back later in my career with as many wins as I can get. I want to see how good I can be as that’s what really motivates me –how I can improve every facet of my game. I’m fascinated by this sport, and it still excites me. I hope the best is yet to come, although I’ve given up trying to predict what will happen next! I’ve got a little boy now – he’s 18 months old – and I really want him to be able to look back and be proud of what I’ve done. At the moment I don’t feel that I have achieved enough to do that, so I want to go on and have him come along to tournaments, see me play well and win again.