Former European Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson admits he is relishing being back in the spotlight after earning a share of the first-round lead at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday.
Wilson carded an eight-under first-round 64 at Kingsbarns, one of the three courses used for the pro-am event, to claim joint top spot with fellow Englishmen Tom Lewis and Richard McEvoy, France’s Alexandre Kaleka and Chile’s Mark Tullo.
The 33-year-old’s success in Scotland was a rare bright spot for a player now ranked a lowly 489th in the world two years after losing his European Tour card and if he 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 the year, but is now fourth 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 the US pair of Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim in the Ryder Cup foursomes in Valhalla, Kentucky, 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,” Wilson said.
“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,” he said. “It was nice of Dunhill and Johann [Rupert, the tournament host] to give me an invite to this event, because it’s going to be a great test.”
Arguably the most impressive round of the day from outside the leaders 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.