Oliver Wilson is no longer Oliver Who? The European Ryder Cup rookie hardly played like one during his debut match at Valhalla.
Rookie Wilson helps lead Euro charge
LOUISVILLE, Kentucky // Oliver Wilson is no longer Oliver Who? The European Ryder Cup rookie hardly played like one during his debut match at Valhalla yesterday. Wilson, a relatively unknown 28-year-old from England, teamed with Henrik Stenson to stun Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim 2 and 1 in a foursomes match that ended with a putt Wilson will not soon forget. He stroked in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to cap a stirring rally from four holes down and validate Faldo's decision to start Wilson in the morning over Ryder Cup stars Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood.
Not bad for a player still looking for his first professional victory. "I knew if I kept getting chances I'd hole one," Wilson said. "I thought it was a bit closer heading up to the green, so when I got up there and it was farther I still thought it was holeable." Wilson left the read up to Stenson then calmly dropped it in, giving the Europeans an improbable victory when Mickelson failed to make his 20-foot birdie.
"I've been waiting to hole that putt all year," Wilson said. "You know, I've done quite a few things like that in my amateur career and it's annoying that I haven't done it as a professional. I love team competition and there's no better stage to do it on." The giddy celebration afterward seemed unlikely after a nightmarish opening six holes for the Europeans. Though Wilson overcame his first-tee jitters and drilled it right down the middle, the Europeans quickly went four down and looked overmatched.
Wilson, however, never panicked. He might be the first player to make a Ryder Cup team without winning, but he earned the 10th spot through his consistency. Wilson had four runner-up finishes and finished in the top 10 seven times. And he relied on that consistency in his Ryder Cup debut, aiming for fairways and greens with hopes the Americans would cool off. "We felt like they're not going to keep up that kind of play," Wilson said. "It's almost impossible to keep making that amount of birdies out there. We were due to make a few." As it turned out, they did not really have to. Mickelson and Kim, who had electrified the crowd on Friday, started spraying shots all over the place. They made a mess of the seventh, bogeyed the eighth, missed a birdie chance at the 10th then followed with bogeys at 14 and 15, giving the Europeans the lead for the first time.
"Nick came up to me on seven before the second shot and said 'Just start that magic in a minute now,' and it seems like we did and fought well," Stenson said. "Oliver had some great putts that just wouldn't drop, and we said he was due to make one. And he did." It was not, however, good enough to earn a spot in the afternoon line-up. Wilson, the only player on both teams who did not play on Friday, was still on the course when Faldo told him he would be sitting out the afternoon fourball matches.
Disappointed, Wilson turned his anger into a positive. "It probably spurred me on a little bit," Wilson said. "We just kept pressing on and it just made it a bit more important." The unlikely victory gave the Europeans a much-needed boost and brought praise from his teammates. "That's a fantastic comeback," Graeme McDowell said. "I thought it was going to be a tough morning for him, his first match foursomes, thrown right into the mix when Europe is behind. But what a comeback for the guys." Especially for the steady Wilson, Europe's mystery man no more.