Oliver Wilson beats McIlroy and himself to win the Dunhill Links Open

The sporting story of the year is the victory of Oliver Wilson ranked World no 792 over Rory McIlroy, World No 1, at the Dunhill Links Open. It will inspire a generation of players. But how did it happen?

The story seems one more rerun of a movie in which the nice guy hero is heading for the top and starts to fall back from the elite group of players to lose his playing rights for top tournaments then continues his fall until he reaches the ignominy of needing a wild card even to play at the Dunhill event.

After three rounds he has surprised everyone by leading a field all of whose players greatly outrank him. News reports suggest he has had his moment of fame before others will sweep past him on the final day.

Put not your faith in numbers

As far as I have been able to find out, no-one before the event had backed the rank outsider. After the third day, Wilson gave an interview in which he said the right things about playing well enough the next day to give himself a chance of winning. It didn’t sound convincing. I expected one of the chasing pack would out-score him by a few strokes.

That’s what you would conclude from evidence of countless tournaments on the assumption that the top players would all score randomly around par. That is also why stats can always be used to suggest probabilities, but not not certainties.

What happened next?

Wilson did go on playing good golf. Incredibly good for the lowest ranked player in the field. Good enough to keep ahead on the World No 1, who did indeed play one of those low scoring rounds, and finished a stroke behind Wilson.

Oliver’s efforts have changed his future career

What is a certainty now, is that Oliver’s future will be different from what anyone expected a week ago. He has financial and professional security for at least two years,with exemptions from qualifying on European tour events.

How did it happen?

The answer is both simple and at the same time treacherously difficult to suggest with any confidence. Wilson identifies a critical incident which helped him iron out technical weaknesses in his swing.

Psychological alchemy

This came about from generous advice from a fellow professional, Robert Rock. The technical advice, by some psychological alchemy, was transmuted into confidence in Wilson, and into belief that he could survive playing a bad shot and get back to playing good ones.

That is what Wilson believes. This is very much a case of sense-making when otherwise the story has no meaning.

What happens next?

Oliver Wilson faces more personal challenges. For a while his progress becomes news. No pressure there, then Oliver.

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