Lack of professional success no barrier for Wilson
With apologies to Gregory Havret, the Frenchman who prevailed in a tense finish to this Johnnie Walker Championship, the proudest player on this golf course yesterday was Oliver Wilson. He does not expect to have a pub named after him, but Mansfield will have toasted his achievement last night.
Wilson completed a memorable month for the Nottinghamshire town in the wake of Rebecca Adlington's double Olympic success when earning the last qualifying place for next month's Ryder Cup. The 28-year-old will become the first player in modern times to play in the biennial dust-up without a professional victory to his name, but on this showing he will not necessarily be the weakest link.
The manner in which he responded to a charge from fellow countryman Nick Dougherty signalled him as a competitor with a keen nerve. After five holes of his second round, Wilson was six-over and on his way home for a torrid weekend of watching and waiting. But then with an inspired run, which saw him 13-under for his remaining 49 holes, Wilson recovered well to record a top 10 finish. It meant that the players who had come into the final counting event with their automatic places in jeopardy all had passed their personal examinations. Justin Rose (tied fifth) and Soren Hansen (tied 10th) also came in the top 10 in a rousing week for the Nick Faldo rookies.
Saying that, there were a few moments of alarm for Wilson as Dougherty stormed through the field with five birdies in a row from the seventh. If Wilson's countryman had carried that startling momentum all the way to the top of the leaderboard, and collected the £230,000 on offer, Wilson would have needed to come second. As it was, Dougherty's charge petered out, and in seventh place the 25-year-old, who lost his mother to a heart attack the week after the Masters in April, fell agonisingly short.
Wilson was clearly a relieved man and will soon head back to Mansfield for a civic reception alongside Adlington. "I can't see them naming a pub after me, like they did for Rebecca," he laughed. "I'm not that special. I think she was given a couple of pairs of golden Jimmy Choo shoes. I'm not sure what my equivalent would be. Anything plated in gold, I don't mind."
In the tournament proper, Havret holed an eight-footer on the 18th for a 14-under total to deny Hartlepool's Graeme Storm by a stroke. In third was David Howell. As a former Ryder Cup player, however, Howell will have recognised that the headlines were pointed elsewhere.
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