Insider: Killer instinct set tone for Wilson's win

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Chris Wilson won the Price Cutter Charity Championship with a two-putt birdie on the first playoff hole.
August 22, 2012
John Dell, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Chris Wilson thought he had everything covered when assessing his overall game. From his swing to his short game, Wilson said he would stack up with anybody in professional golf.

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What Wilson was missing was between the ears. But that started to change over the past few weeks.

"My mind was just in a good place in Springfield and I was very patient and my caddie kept me one shot at a time and focused on what we were doing," Wilson said about winning on the Web.com Tour earlier this month at the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr. Pepper.

About five weeks ago, Wilson, a 27-year-old with a degree from Northwestern, started to work with sports psychologist Dr. Bob Rotella. The results didn't yield instant success but it did give Wilson a boost to his overall game and his outlook.

Before Wilson came through with his first victory on the Web.com Tour he wound up missing three straight cuts and the last two cuts he missed were by one shot.

"Dr. Bob and I talked about how I missed the cut by a shot in two straight tournaments leading up to Springfield and I said I don't think it's a coincidence that I missed by a shot in each tournament," Wilson said. "I told him what I was thinking about and it was about trying to make the cut and he just said it's better to think more about chasing down the leaders."

A more aggressive approach, even if it was in his mind, proved to be the push Wilson needed.

Getting Wilson into that different mindset wasn't easy, he said.

"That's one of the things we've talked about a lot," Wilson said. "One of his great quotes is, 'Practice like a Boy Scout but play like a Hells Angel.'"

Wilson calls the mental aspect of golf one of the toughest to figure out.

"He helped me a lot in the third phase of the game," Wilson said about Rotella, who has worked with countless PGA TOUR pros through the years. "When you look at the long game, the short game, the mental game wasn't really something I had approached yet. So I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try."

One of the luxuries Wilson also has is experience, which includes a full year on the PGA TOUR in 2010. He went through all three stages of qualifying school and made it to the PGA TOUR but admitted he wasn't prepared once he got there.

During that 2010 season he played in 26 events but made a little more than $76,000 while making just seven cuts. He spent last season on the mini tours but then qualified for his first season on the Web.com Tour.

At one point this season, Wilson missed seven straight cuts and was languishing at No. 165 on the money list. Now he's looking at a chance to play again on the PGA TOUR next season and sits at No. 24 on the money list.

In his victory at the Price Cutter Charity Championship, he beat Scott Harrington, who also went to Northwestern, by two-putting for birdie from 12 feet on the first playoff hole.

Inside THE 25
1 Luke List $309,196
2 Casey Wittenberg $292,128
3 Ben Kohles $262,875
4 Paul Haley II $252,726
5 Andres Gonzales $229,072
24 Chris Wilson $118,986

If there's one thing Wilson has learned it's how fickle the game can be. The goal is to be as consistent as possible, but he says the real challenge is to take it up another level when things are going well.

"The game of golf is funny because obviously consistency is rewarded at some level," Wilson said. "But it's more about how good you can be when it's a good week."

There was a time when Wilson would start a tournament and hope to make the cut, then maybe do damage on the weekend. He doesn't think like that anymore.

"It's about going out every week and trying to win and play good golf and if you hit it right once or twice a year you are set and if you don't you are still OK," Wilson said.

When Wilson went through the meat grinder of all three stages of qualifying school he was encouraged by what he accomplished. He said it proved that he could play at any level.

"The way I got to the big tour was through Q-school," Wilson said. "I went through all those stages and it was the toughest route possible. And I kind of proved to myself I have enough game and I have enough ability when it's good to get there. I'm just trying to do my best to be more consistent."

There are times he looks back at the 2010 season and realizes that it was a great learning experience.

"What I learned on the PGA TOUR is I have enough game," Wilson said. "There are guys out there who I've looked up to and are great players but I've proven I can play at that level."

Wilson wasn't discouraged at missing the cut last week and is looking forward to this week's News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot in Knoxville, Tenn.

Because he has his first victory of the season, the goals have changed.

"We've kind of refocused my goals since I'm inside the top 25 and now we are moving forward," Wilson said. "I'm going to play the rest of the season and get out there every week and try to win another tournament. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season and I feel good about my game."

John Dell has covered golf for the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina for the last 19 years. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. You can reach him at johndell@triad.rr.com.

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