ST ANDREWS, United Kingdom (AFP) – Oliver Wilson held his nerve down the stretch to win his first career EPGA title as the world number 792 upset the field at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The 34-year-old Englishman, a losing player on the 2008 European Ryder Cup team, finally tasted victory with a 72-hole total of 17-under par at St Andrews, after finishing runner-up nine times during his topsy-turvy career.
His compatriot and playing partner Tommy Fleetwood had a chance to send the tournament to a play-off but missed a 10ft putt for birdie on 18 to hand the emotional Wilson victory.
World number one Rory McIlroy and Scotland’s Richie Ramsey also finished one shot back along with Fleetwood on 16-under.
Scotland’s Chris Doak was alone in fifth a further stroke back, after a six under 66.
“I don’t have words for it, this has been 10 or 11 years coming,” said a tearful Wilson after his win.
“Nine-time runner-up, nothing had gone my way but I must thank the organisers because they offered me an invite to play this week and I’m very grateful.
“I’ve never been able to win a tournament but I tried to be patient today (Sunday) and Rory (McIlroy) was in front so I was keeping an eye on him and Tommy (Fleetwood) who played very well today.
“So many people had written me off which obviously hurt me but a lot of others believed in me and they know who they are. Thanks to all of them.
“Every day my confidence grew and I have good memories here at St Andrews (finished second in 2009 behind Simon Dyson).”
Wilson, who splits his time between his native Mansfield in England and Augusta, Georgia, came into the final round with a three-shot lead but saw that evaporate over the front nine when South African Louis Oosthuizen birdied four of his first six holes.
McIlroy got off to the worst possible start when he double bogeyed the opening hole after missing the green but bounced back with four straight birdies to claw himself back into contention.
Chasing his fifth win of the season, the world number one, was tied for the lead down the stretch but bogeyed the difficult 17th when he rolled his putt from off the green into a pot bunker.
Playing alongside his father Gerry, who was celebrating his 55th birthday and playing the pro-am with his son, McIlroy birdied the 18th to get within one but just came up short.
“If I look back, I probably lost it on those two holes, the first and the 17th but it was fantastic to play with my dad and for him to play St Andrews on his birthday was very special,” said McIlroy.