Wilson survives emotional rollercoaster at Honda

BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2007 The Honda Classic | Wrap | 06 Mar 2007
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Mark Wilson today won his first USPGA Tour event when he holed a putt of ten feet to birdie the second hole of the day and the third of a delayed playoff to edge out Jose Coceres at the par three 17th and then waited as Jose Coceres missed from a similar distance.

Returning to the Champion Course at Palm Beach Gardens after the playoff had been suspended by darkness after just one hole on Sunday evening, the quartet of Wilson, Coceres, Camilo Villegas and Boo Weekly recommenced their battle at the par four 10th hole but Villegas and Weekly were eliminated when they took bogey and Coceres and Wilson moved to the par three 17th. Both hit superb tee shots, especially given the circumstances, but it was Wilson who holed the winning putt.

For Coceres it was the second consecutive week he had lost a playoff after being beaten by Fred Fun a week earlier in Mexico for the Mayakoba Golf Classic title.

32-year-old Wilson has been a regular visitor to the USPGA Tour School in each of the past ten years as he looked to gain or regain a card. He had played 110 PGA Tour events prior to this week and had a previous best finish of 3rd at the 2004 Valero Texas Open. Wilson had regained his card at last December’s Tour School where he finished 29th after being 156th on the money list and was forced to attend stage two before making the final stage.

“Not having to go to Q-School for the next, hopefully ever, but no matter how I play, even if I don’t make another dime, I don’t have to go back until the end of 2009,” said Wilson after the win. “That’s huge. I mean, I can’t wait to — I think just set my schedule now, too, because I’ve been always one that has to look at the computer to see if I’m in a tournament or not in a tournament. Matter of fact, I talked to Gerald Goodman (PODS Championship Tournament Director) or left him a message on Friday morning before I played my round and said, hey, how are you going to do the exemptions for next week, because I was second alternate at the time. I just didn’t know what tournaments I could get in.”

One of the most bizarre aspects of Wilson’s win was that he called a two shot penalty on himself when his caddie had inadvertently given Camilo Villegas and his caddie information at the par three 5th in round two on Friday. The resultant double bogey did not stop him from producing six more birdies that day and his 66 set up his chance to make the weekend move he did.

“It’s an important rule to me,” said Wilson. "I think that the Rules of Golf are there to be fair for everyone. It’s a tough rule that advice rule, because, you know, a caddie might just be trying to be nice. There’s a lot of camaraderie because amongst the caddies and players and the caddie may feel like he was being nice, “Oh that was a 5-iron,” but it’s against the rules. I don’t mind having my caddie having the bag open so a player can look in there and see what he can hit. It was a weird situation where I had hit my hybrid club, and Camilo and his caddie were behind us and I think Camilo said, ’Hey, Matty,’ to his caddie, ’What is that,’ and he said, ’It’s like a 2- or a 3-iron,’ and my caddie just happened to turn around and say, ’Oh, it’s an 18-degree.’ And I’m like, I don’t think that that’s right."

“I played out that hole and then immediately called an official over to see what he thought. And he wasn’t sure at first either if that was necessarily advice. But within 60 seconds he made the decision it was, and he said it was two strokes.

He (Wilson’s caddy) was very upset with himself because he knows how important that is to me. I told him, you know that we don’t do that. You know, you don’t give advice. That’s an important rule to follow. They can look in our bag all they want.

He was teary-eyed and really upset at the end of the round. In terms of the actual round, we played through the sixth hole and seventh hole and there weren’t too many words said between us. Part of me thought he was just upset with me for even making a big deal about it. But then I finally just put my arm around him and said, “Hey let’s go, let’s go play golf.”

“Camilo was a gentleman. He said, ’Hey that sucked what happened over there on No. 5 – let’s go play golf.” From there on, I just played some of the best golf of my life."

Wilson paid tribute to the assistance he has been given by Dr Bob Rotella in the mind games associated with the sport of golf. “It was the best money I ever spent. The greatest return on my investment by far. You know, he just taught me to be comfortable with my game. The main question I asked him was, you know, I wake up each day not sure what I should do. Should I work on certain things in my swing with my teacher, study, or should I just play golf?”

“Doctor Rotella responded, ’The day that you could decide to just play golf is the day that you’re going to finally realize your dreams on the PGA TOUR.’ So from that point on, I stopped practicing as much physically. I did a lot more mental practice thinking about the good things. I’ve started making a log where after each round, I sit there with my computer and I think — I write down or type in all of my good shots and good putts and good chips and then read through them over and over that night.”

“Because he thinks, you’ve got two choices, you can think about the bad shots or you can think about the good shots. I used to always harp on the bad shot. So the old me would have last night in the hotel room thought about, the flared tee shot on 18. But the new me thought about the putt I made and that helped me today.”

“I talked to Doc the last two nights and he always had something just a little bit different, a little tweak on something to remind me about. He told me to be as patient as I’ve ever been on Sunday. He said that. And then for today he says, ’Playoffs, you’ve got to go get it. You’ve got to play aggressive.’ I wouldn’t have thought of that, and I certainly did that coming into 10 and 17 as well.”

Wilson fought back on many occasions throughout the course of the week at Palm Beach Gardens but the one thing he will not have to fight back from for the next nearly three years is a lost card on the PGA Tour. This is a week that has already changed the life of Mark Wilson and armed with a new found belief and mental disciplines it could change even further – and soon.


Position Score Player Country R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
1 -5 Mark Wilson United States 72 66 66 71 275
T2 -5 Boo Weekley United States 71 68 66 70 275
T2   ↑T7 -5 Camilo Villegas Colombia 70 68 71 66 275
T2   ↑T7 -5 Jose Coceres Argentina 69 71 69 66 275
T5   ↑6 -4 Robert Allenby Australia 67 68 73 68 276
T5   ↓T4 -4 Steve Stricker United States 68 69 70 69 276
T5   ↑T7 -4 Tripp Isenhour United States 71 70 68 67 276
T8   ↑T13 -3 Brett Wetterich United States 68 71 71 67 277
T8   ↓3 -3 Daniel Chopra Sweden 70 68 68 71 277
T10   ↑T13 -1 Arron Oberholser United States 68 73 69 69 279
Position Score Player Country R1 R2 R3 R4 Total
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    About the Author: Bruce Young

    A multi-award winning golf journalist, Bruce's extensive knowledge of the game comes from several years caddying the tournament circuits of the world, marketing a successful golf course design company and as one of Australia's leading golf journalists and commentators.

    Read all of Bruce's articles »

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