The 18 at St Andrews has seen some epic finales these past 200-odd years, to which Oliver Wilson’s first career victory fits nicely. Wilson made his name as a serial runner-up, nine times in three years from 2006 taking him into the world’s top 50 and earning a spot in the 2008 Ryder Cup team.
Since then zip, precipitating a career free fall to 792 in the world. He had even fallen outside the top-100 on the Challenge Tour then up he popped up on a sponsor’s invite at the Dunhill Championship to edge the great Rory McIlroy and inherit the earth by a shot.
It was some finish since his second at the Road Hole 17 was hit from an adjacent fairway and his third out of the rough to three-feet when doom seemed the most likely outcome. And after missing his birdie putt by an inch at the last he had to watch Tommy Fleetwood try to bring him down from ten feet.
Mercifully for Wilson, universally acknowledged as golf’s nicest nice guy, Fleetwood’s putt rolled by to the right. Cue emotional dash across the green and the wife of all hugs. “I could be drunk for a while – I’ve had a lot of champagne on ice over the years,” he said.
“I don’t have words for it. It’s been ten years, 11 years coming. Before I went out today I thought about how I’ve never gone out and won a tournament. I’ve played alright coming down the stretch and not lost it and other guys have just got over the line ahead of me and today I was just trying to be patient.”
After ending the first day nine shots adrift of Wilson the gap proved too big to bridge on this occasion though McIlroy did sign off with a birdie just to show he can. A double bogey at the first after finding the burn at the front of the green with his approach and a putt from the hollow into the Road Hole bunker ultimately cost McIlroy the £500,000 winner’s cheque.
Never mind. He can afford to take the hit. And there is an Open defence to look forward to on this hallowed track next year. “Where I feel like I cost myself the tournament was probably in the space of about 20 yards at the front of the green at the first and over at the Road Hole bunker,” he said. “They are not too far away from each other and they are only mistakes that I made all day.
“I love this golf course. I feel like I play well here every time I tee it up, so I’m looking forward to coming back here in July and defending The Open Championship.”