10 January 2011
Louis Oosthuizen added another Open to his list of victories when he won the Africa Open after a three-man playoff at the East London Golf Club on Sunday.
Oosthuizen birdied the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to beat England’s Chris Wood and Spain’s Manuel Quiros to the title, which is his third on the European Tour and signalled a welcome return to top form after he struggled with an injury towards the end of 2010.
The South African had been tied for the third round lead with Markus Brier, but the Austrian made a storming start, with three consecutive birdies to take the sole lead. However, a lost ball on the sixth saw Brier slip back and he never recovered.
Oosthuizen, meanwhile, kept at it and tied for the lead on the 15th with an eagle. He needed a birdie on one of the three remaining holes to take victory, but managed only pars to set up the playoff. Luckily for him, he found the birdie he needed at the first extra hole.
“It’s a great way to start the season. This is my first European Tour title in South Africa and I’m quite ecstatic about that,” said Oosthuizen, whose winner’s cheque of €158 500 (almost R1.4-million) helped lift him to the top of the Race to Dubai standings.
The Open champion closed with a 70, Wood a 68, and Quiros a 69 to see them all tied on 16-under-par.
Teeing off first in the playoff on the par-four 18th, Oosthuizen didn’t hit the best of tee shots and came close to out of bounds before it kicked right and rolled onto the fairway.
“It was a terrible tee shot, but it worked out well because I had a flat lie and could hit a full sand wedge, so I knew with a bit of spin I could get it close,” said Oosthuizen, who went on to hit his second shot to five metres from the hole.
Birdie for victory
Wood hit his approach to about 10 metres, while Quiros went just over the back of the green. Both Quiros and Wood parred the hole, leaving Oosthuizen to make his putt for birdie and the win.
“The whole day was a struggle actually. It was one of those tournaments where the putter was very cold. But my caddie Zack told me to just be patient and the putts will drop,” said Oosthuizen.
That putt finally arrived on the par-five 15th green, where Oosthuizen holed out for eagle from about 12 metres to share the lead with Wood on 15-under. But he was denied the sole lead when his birdie putt on 16 lipped out.
Quiros found his own putting form with three birdies in the final three holes to also make the playoff.
For rising English star Chris Wood, there was disappointment at not following through to claim a maiden victory on the European Tour.
“I wasn’t expecting much having not practiced much with all the snow at home. But when you’re in a position to win, it’s disappointing not to do it. I didn’t do much wrong and can’t really fault myself, but it just didn’t happen for me.”
Charl Schwartzel put on a good show in defence of his title and posted a 70 to finish alongside Jaco van Zyl and Steven O’Hara on 15-under-par 277, only one shot behind the leading trio.
Oosthuizen now leaves South Africa for a few tournaments on the European Tour before joining the PGA Tour, and admits he’s excited about this new chapter in his life.
“I’m looking forward to the whole year, playing half in America and Europe. I’m looking forward to contending on both money lists.”
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