Oosthuizen captures British Open

19 July 2010

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen stunned the world of golf with an assured performance at the 139th edition of the Open Golf Championship, recording a sensational seven-shot victory on the Old Course at Saint Andrews on Sunday.

“To win an Open Championship is special, but to win it here at Saint Andrews is something you dream about,” he said afterwards.

While the majority of the field struggled to master the windy conditions at the home of golf, Oosthuizen had no such problems. After the first round, he trailed only Rory McIlroy by two shots after the Northern Irishman had blitzed the course in a record nine-under-par 63.

Halfway lead

Oosthuizen topped the leaderboard at the halfway mark after a five-under-par 67 left him on 12-under 132. McIlroy, meanwhile, stumbled to an 80 and dropped way down the standings.

In round three, Oosthuizen’s 69 was bettered by only six players. That left him on 15-under-par 201 with a round to play. England’s Paul Casey was the closest man to the South African, but four shots off the pace on 11-under 205. There were seven shots between Oosthuizen and third place. Essentially, it was his tournament to lose.

Displaying a calmness that surprised many (considering the big stakes), Oosthuizen kept his composure throughout the final round to record a convincing victory which was the fourth by a South African in The Open. Previously Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Oosthuizen’s mentor, Ernie Els, had lifted the famed Claret Jug.

The closest Casey, who was partnering Oosthuizen, managed to get to him during the final round was three shots.

‘I felt it was very tight’

Afterwards, at the winner’s press conference, Oosthuizen said: “I felt it was very tight: three shots was nothing, playing that course anything could happen on the back nine, but the minute Paul hit it in the bush on 12, making that seven, and me making that putt for birdie was a huge thing.

“At that stage I had a lot of confidence and the holes that were coming up, I knew 13 and 14, to me, I don’t know, I like those holes.”

Playing with Casey, said Oosthuizen, had helped his game. “He’s just a great guy,” Oosthuizen explained. “Also a great golfer, fantastic person, he’s definitely going to win a major, that’s for sure.

“It’s always nice playing with him. We have a lot of fun on the course, talk about other things, things like that. I think it’s important, things like that. It’s still a game you’re playing and you’ve got to have fun with the guys you’re playing with. Otherwise it’s going to be quite miserable out there. But, yeah, we had a really fun day.”

Winning one’s first major, no doubt, makes it a fun day, especially when one has done enough over the first three rounds to leave very few challengers for the title.

Surprise victory

While Oosthuizen’s winning margin was huge, it was probably not as huge as the surprise of him winning. After all, if someone had been lucky enough to lay a bet of R5 000 on Oosthuizen at the start of the tournament, that person would have walked away with R1-million thanks to odds of 200 to 1 on the South African.

Ahead of his final round, Oosthuizen received a phone call from South African golfing legend Gary Player. Oosthuizen related: “Gary was saying just to stay calm out there, have a lot of fun, and, you know, he said that the crowd was probably going to be on Paul’s side.

“But then he told me the story of when he played against Arnold Palmer, when he won his first Masters. He said they wanted to throw stuff at him,” Oosthuizen laughed, “but he was so focused on beating him at Augusta. So, it meant a lot, him phoning me up.”

Happy birthday

The first thing Oosthuizen did in his speech on the 18th green after winning was to wish former South African President Nelson Mandela a happy 92nd birthday.

“You know, I woke up this morning and I didn’t know it was his birthday today,” he admitted, “but I saw it this morning on the news, on the internet, and it just felt a bit special.

“And when I walked down the 18th, I was thinking about his birthday and my manager also gave me a list of things [to say], and it was also on there. What he’s done for our country is unbelievable and happy birthday once again.”

Oosthuizen also paid tribute to Ernie Els and his Fancourt Foundation, which provides assistance to talented young South African golfers. With his victory, Oosthuizen became the first player from the Foundation to capture a Major title.

Behind Oosthuizen

Behind Oosthuizen, on 272, and Westwood, on 279, Casey had to settle for a share of third with Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy on 280. The Englishman went around in 75, while Stenson posted a 71, and McIlroy a 68. Remarkably, McIlroy had three rounds in the sixties, but, crucially, another of 80.

South Africa’s Retief Goosen produced a very steady four rounds of golf to finish alone in sixth on seven-under-par 281 after rounds of 69, 70, 72, and 70.

Charl Schwartzel, the best man at Oosthuizen’s wedding, tied for 14th. He finished on four-under-par 284 after rounds of 71, 75, 68, and 70.

Trevor Immelman shared 23rd place, only one shot further off the pace, on three-under 285 after going around in 68, 74, 75, and 68.

Thomas Aiken finished on seven-over-par 295, tied for 74th

Ernie Els, Tim Clark, Jean Hugo, Joshua Cunliffe, and Darren Fichardt missed the cut.

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