Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Wilson can see brighter days ahead

Shot selection: Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen enjoy the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
Shot selection: Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen enjoy the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship

Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson feels he has effectively "fallen off the planet" since losing his European Tour card in 2011, but now has the chance to become a star once more in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Wilson carded a first round of 64 at Kingsbarns, one of the three courses used for the £3.2m pro-am event, to claim a share of the lead on eight under par with compatriots Tom Lewis and Richard McEvoy, France's Alexandre Kaleka and Chile's Mark Tullo.

Two Ulstermen also have their eyes firmly fixed on the top of the leaderboard after Michael Hoey and Darren Clarke carded four under and three under respectively.

If the world number 489, Wilson, needs any further motivation to regain the form which saw him finish seventh on the Order of Merit in 2009, he need look no further than his former Ryder Cup partner Henrik Stenson, who was 230th in the rankings at the start of 2012 but is now fourth and 11m US dollars richer following his Tour Championship and FedEx Cup triumph on Sunday.

"I'm playing a lot better," said Wilson, who combined with Stenson to recover from four down to beat Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim in the foursomes at Valhalla in 2008.

"For the first time in probably over a year actually, I have some control over my shots and am able to hit the shots and trust it under pressure as well.

"I'm driving the ball way, way better, which is essentially the thing that had disappeared. I wasn't able to get it in play, wasn't able to get it on fairways and, in any wind, I was really in trouble.

"It was nice of Dunhill and Johann (Rupert, tournament host) to give me an invite to this event, because it's going to be a great test."

Wilson, who has finished second and fifth in his last three events on the Challenge Tour and came home in 30 today with four birdies and an eagle, added: "We've played some good courses the last few weeks and I've played well and that's built my confidence.

"I have a chance to get my card at the end of the year a few various ways and obviously there is a chance this week as well.

"I just have to keep playing well. Wherever I play, if I play well, it's only a matter of time before I get to I where want to get to, so that's the most important thing."

Arguably the best round of the day came from Welshman Jamie Donaldson, who returned a seven-under 65 at Carnoustie to lie joint sixth with Scotland's George Murray and English trio Mark Foster, Matthew Baldwin and Tommy Fleetwood.

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