The Joy of golf: How Robert became Wilson’s Rock

Joy Chakravarty 08:09 09/10/2014
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Mr Nice Guy: Oliver Wilson got his driver working to become a popular winner in Scotland.

Forget Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and the European Ryder Cup team – my vote for golf’s Story of the Year goes to Oliver Wilson and his stunning win last week at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

There is not one soul in the various Tours across the globe who does not love Oli. He is just about the nicest human being you can meet on Planet Earth. And obviously, it helped his popularity immensely because in the days when he was playing brilliantly, he finished runner-up nine times without posting a single win.

Even world No1 McIlroy, who was beaten to second place by Wilson, tweeted: “Don’t think I could’ve chosen a better person to finish 2nd to this week! Congrats @Oliver_Wilson so well deserved!”

What Wilson could not do when ranked consistently inside the world top-50, he managed to do when ranked 792nd.

Wilson, who admitted there were times in the last two year when he had thoughts of quitting the game, was unable to pinpoint where things started going wrong for him. But he reckoned it had to do with the frustration of not being able to haul himself over the finish line.

That, and a couple of illness and injury issues, combined to dent his confidence and the downward spiral began.

Since the beginning of 2010, Wilson played 98 events before the Dunhill Links, missed the cut in 50 of them, lost his European Tour card and had just four top-10 finishes. Then something changed a couple of weeks ago while playing a Challenge Tour event in Kazakhstan.

On the advice of his caddie, he sent a video of his swing with the driver (the one club he thinks was the root cause of all his problems) to the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC champion Robert Rock. Rock got back to him immediately with a long e-mail, which Wilson read the night after playing his first round, and went out on the course the next day and shot a course-record 63.

The week after, he played the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on a sponsor’s invitation, and the rest is history.

Cover girls

Things are looking up for women’s golf, and that is quite evident by the growing number of events, sponsors, spectators and television viewers that the LPGA Tour has been enjoying in the past year or so. But the biggest acknowledgement of that might be the fact that two of the biggest golf publications in the world – Golf Digest and Golf Magazine – have had LPGA stars on their cover in the last two months.

The November issue of Golf Magazine will feature the world No1 Stacy Lewis on its cover – the first time a female golfer has taken that position in the magazine since Annika Sorenstam in 2003.

Earlier, the October issue of Golf Digest had Michelle Wie (above) on its cov­er, the first LPGA star since Lorena Ochoa in August 2008.

Of course, Golf Digest had a woman on its cover as recently as December 2013, but that was supermodel Kate Upton along­side Arnold Palmer, and May 2014, when they created a huge contro­versy by featuring Paulina Gretzky, daughter of NHL legend Wayne and girlfriend of Dustin Johnson.

Return of the European Open

The European Open has a special place in my heart, mainly because when it was held the last time in 2009, it was sponsored by Lei­surecorp, the now-defunct arm of Dubai realty giants Nakheel.

That year, it attracted a record crowd of over 90,000 at the London  Golf Club and smashed the previ­ous attendance record by 38,000. Enhancing the spectator experi­ence and attracting more fans to the game was always a key objective for Leisurecorp.

Now, the European Tour has announced that the tournament will return to its calendar in 2015, and will be played for the first time in continental Europe since it was first held in 1978. Next year’s tour­nament will be held in September at the Hartl Resort in Bad Griesbach, Germany and will carry a purse of €2 million (Dh9.3mn).

And the bad news…

The return of the European Open soon followed with Volvo’s announcement that they will be ending their sponsorship of the World Match Play Championship and the Golf Champions from next year.

However, the car brand will con­tinue its 25-year-old association with the European Tour by spon­soring the China Open.

Volvo will shift their focus from professional events to their global golf series, the Volvo World Golf Challenge, which saw more than 60,000 clients from about 40 coun­tries taking part this year

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