Wilson Wins (With a Twist)
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Mark Wilson: the hottest player on tour right now

Cheesehead Mark Wilson captured the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Monday for his second victory in three starts, beating Jason Dufner on the second playoff hole. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch it in real life because ironically, I was in such a rush to get from No. 18 (first playoff hole) to the 10th tee (second extra hole). It’s actually quite a funny story — in a morbid, laugh-at-myself kind of way.

Apparently I need to be more careful when Wilson/Dufner are dueling — I was so overwhelmed with excitement that I walked into a hole in the grass behind the 18th green. My left foot landed in the hole (see below) and rolled over hard as I totally ate it. Oh, mind you, there were thousands of fans who probably witnessed my epic fall. But I was in too much pain to feel embarrassed. I could literally feel and hear the ligaments tearing as I fell. Next thing I knew the medics at the course sent me to the ER for X-Rays. Who knew this job was so hazardous?!

I’m sure people get injured all the time at the Phoenix Open, but they’re usually drunk. I was dead sober (not even hungover!) and wearing sneakers (instead of flip flops, which is the norm). More irony!

The culprit (the one on the left)

Good news is I didn’t break or fracture anything. Bad news is I have a high sprain and I’m stuck wearing a huge boot and walking with crutches for at least a few weeks. Which is going to make my job a little tougher (maybe this means I’ll get a handicap parking spot at the LA Open and a cart to drive — yeah, right!). Even worse I probably can’t play golf for two months. Too bad I don’t get disability since I’m an independent contractor.

Mark Wilson reads his birdie putt on No. 18

Anyway, the atmosphere at TPC Scottsdale during the final few holes in regulation and the first playoff hole actually did give me a buzz. Impressively, more than 13,000 fans attended the Monday finish! I was shocked to see the huge galleries when I walked out to catch Wilson and Tommy Two Gloves play 17 and 18.

Wilson, who notched his third-career victory at last month’s rain-delayed Sony Open, nearly pulled his tee shot on 18 (in regulation) in the water. He knocked a beautiful approach from the waste bunker to about 10 feet, missed the birdie and tapped-in for par. In the six remaining holes in regulation on Monday, he carded straight pars until draining the nine-footer for birdie on the second playoff hole.

The win at Sony earned him a spot to The Masters for the first time. With today’s victory, he clinched his first trip to the US Open since 1998. He also surged from 91st in the world rankings to 51st, securing a berth in the 64-man WGC-Accenture Match Play.

“I’m just enjoying the ride here and that’s just kind of the way I’m going to look at the year here, just ride this train as long as I can,” said Wilson. “I was a little more nervous today than I was expecting. I didn’t sleep great last night. It was probably the excitement with the Super Bowl and the uncertainty of today.”

Wilson, a huge Green Bay Packers fan, missed the first half of the game because of the delays, yet still stuck around to speak to the media. Turns out he didn’t get to catch much of the second half, either. Instead he played Candy Land with his son.

“…In the middle of the fourth quarter, (my son) said, `OK, the last two minutes we can watch it together.’ So we watched that last stand, and I was happy that they somehow pulled it off.”

I’ve become a big Wilson fan in the past month. (I mean, there are few players I’d sacrifice my ankle for!) To be honest, before the Sony Open, I wouldn’t have been able to pick him out of a line-up. But he’s a genuinely nice guy, who is easy to root for.

Who would have thought Mark Wilson was going to be the hottest player on Tour at the beginning of the season? You’re lying if you predicted it. Wilson, who is only 5’8″ and weighs 145 lbs, barely kept his card, finishing 123rd on the 2010 money list. And five tournaments into 2011, he’s won more tournaments than Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods combined in the last 10 months. Pretty cool, eh?

(AP Photo/Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski)