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January 15 2013

5:35 PM

Wilson prospers with clean slate

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Steve Stricker has been known as Mr. September for his prowess during the FedExCup Playoffs. So maybe it's time that we gave January honors to his fellow Wisconsin native Mark Wilson.

Wilson has three victories in the first five weeks of the last two years -- the 2011 Sony Open in Hawaii and Waste Management Phoenix Open and the 2012 Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. And as he comes to the California desert to defend his latest title, Wilson already has a tie for 11th in the 2013 season-opener at Kapalua to his credit.

Wilson, who makes his home in Chicago, known for its harsh winters, is at a loss to explain his success. He likes that the slate is clean, though, and he's well-rested, which Wilson also thinks works in his favor.

"I'm not really looking at rankings and where I stand and all that stuff," Wilson said. "I feel like I'm a little bit more relaxed with that and secondly, I've just come off usually a pretty big break. ... My mind is very clear and I'm thinking about the good things that I can do. As the season progresses, sometimes you focus on mistakes and what I can improve and therefore you're starting to think about some of the negatives in your game."

Wilson generally takes a trip before Christmas to somewhere warm where he can work on his game. He'll head to Maui early if he's one of the lucky few who make the winner's-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions. If not, Wilson stops in the desert to visit his in-laws for a few days before heading to Honolulu for the Sony Open.

"I think it's a testament to the game is really not that difficult," Wilson said. "Sometimes you make it too difficult, and I personally do. It spealks to simplicity and how simplifying is something that golf sports pesychologists talk to me all the time about. I sometimes listen, sometimes don't. ...

"(Sports psychologist) Bob Rotella has told me many times once you accept what you have and go and play golf you're going to succeed. With that being said there's still times you've got to work on your technique and I still do that. You've got to work at everything in life so I can't just let my golf swing go. But I think it speaks to simplicity."

Of course, Wilson's theory doesn't always work. He took a three-week break after last year's U.S. Open "thinking I would be rejuvenated" but returned to tie for 45th at the John Deere Classic and only posted one top-10 finish in his last nine starts

"So who knows?" Wilson said with a smile.

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