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Oosthuizen's champion performance

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Iain Carter | 08:54 UK time, Monday, 19 July 2010

Louis Oosthuizen's remarkable St Andrews triumph provides further evidence that these days the Open is precisely what it says on the label.

That a 200-1 shot ranked outside the world's top 50 can so utterly dominate, shows that the oldest and grandest of the game's major events is a wide-open contest and not a domain exclusive to golf's perceived elite.

This was the biggest shock result seen in the 29 Opens played at the Old Course. Ironically, Oosthuizen's apparently nerveless display over four extraordinary days on the Fife coast turned it in to "the Closed".

Time was that only the very best golfer could win at St Andrews. Jack Nicklaus twice, Sir Nick Faldo and on two occasions Tiger Woods triumphed at the Home of Golf when they were at the very top of the game. John Daly was already a major winner when he won in 1995.

Oosthuizen has proven that it is now simply who plays the best golf of the week and that trying to predict who might produce it is nigh on impossible.

Is it a reflection of strength in depth in the world game, or is it that we're in an era where the top golfers in the world are all much of a muchness?

Has modern equipment, teaching methods and coaching technology equalised talent to such an extent that these events are about which player has his mental attitude in the right place? Is it a strength or a weakness for the game?

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Oosthuizen's triumph was completely unexpected

Having walked all 18 holes with the new champion, I have few complaints. This was an extraordinary performance from the likeable South African who was composure personified.

To have responded to the growing momentum that was swinging Paul Casey's way as a five shot lead had been whittled to three with 10 holes to play was the stuff of a champion.

Oosthuizen had dropped his first shot of the day at the short eighth. The grandstands were getting excited at the prospect of the British player hunting down an exposed leader, and Casey knocked his drive to the back of the ninth green.

The eventual winner responded with an even better tee shot and then boldly sank his eagle putt across the green. Four clear with nine to play. Suddenly the pressure was all back on Casey's shoulders and three holes into the back nine he buckled with that horrible seven at the 12th.

Oosthuizen capitalised with an immaculate birdie and suddenly the only contest was between him and the record books and he ultimately came up just one short of tying the Open's record winning margin.

Casey was left to battle for second place and he lost that too with Lee Westwood securing his second runner-up spot in a major this year.

This was a good second for the Worksop man. His putting was never at its best throughout the week, a legacy of the lay-off he had to take to nurse the calf injury that forced him off the course in the build up to the Open.

Westwood never had a chance of winning, but still finished in the highest position he could realistically challenge for and it is now four top three finishes in his last five majors. His time will surely come.

Casey can reflect on his highest major finish, but rue the fact that his putting on the final day wasn't up to applying sufficient pressure on the runaway leader whose prowess off the tee ensured that he was always in control of his game.

Casey will win a major one day and it will come on the occasion that his streaky putting is dialled in. Westwood will do it through the relentless power and accuracy of his long game.

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McIlroy was left to rue his poor second round

If the weather on the Friday afternoon had been kinder, perhaps Oosthuizen's biggest challenge would have come from Rory McIlroy, who shared third place with Casey and Henrik Stenson despite that second round 80.

Had the 21 year old from Northern Ireland broken 70 on Friday, as he has done in every other competitive round he has played at the Old Course, he might have won at a canter.

Of course he didn't and by his own admission he didn't cope well in adversity. His weekend rounds of 69 and 68 show an encouraging resilience that suggests in future he will be less likely to let an important round get away from him.

McIlroy is already one of the best players in the world and he is destined to be part of the game's elite for many years in the future.

But what we've learned from this Open is that such an elevated position is no guarantee that you won't be upstaged by a supposed lesser light.

The 27 year old Oosthuizen has now earned his own place at the top of the game with a sensational display and his challenge is to turn that into a foundation stone for the rest of his career.

Open champions are special, St Andrews champs tend to be extra special and his performance in rounds of 65, 67, 69 and 71 to win by seven strokes certainly fell into that category.


  • Comment number 1.

    Well done Oosthuizen. A very impressive win & good for him if he does choose to stay on the European tour. We are begining to see that The tour is now producing the best players in the world.
    I'm glad it wasn't yet another American who said how great it was to win the "British" open & then never set foot on these shores again for 12 months.
    The only recent US winners I can remember playing occasionally in this country whilst champion are Tom Lehman, John Daly & Ben Curtis & I was always pleased to see them at least allowing the people of these shores to see their champion golfer.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't know how you can say Westwood and Casey WILL win a major. They might win one. I am sure 20 years ago you would have said Montgomerie will win one, or 10 years ago Garcia will win one. Nothing is guaranteed in sport or life for that matter.

  • Comment number 3.

    I may be a Brit, but I just cannot get excited about Casey our Westwood. When I was a kid I was rooting for Sandy, Woosie, Nick and Seve... I used to be praying for them as they walked down the 72nd hole hoping they would win... But Casey and Westwood have had their time.. Casey is talented but has a terrible record in majors. Ditto Westwood up until 2008. It is great to see Westwood finding this remarkable vein of consistency now, but he still seems to be missing the magic ingredient to close the deal.

    Maybe they will win a major. OK, I hope they do. But there is a new generation now. That is why McIlroy is the real deal. He has the chance to be the best player of his generation - something that Casey and Westwood will never be. He will be playing against Iskiwawa, Schwarzel, Ricky Fowler and others for the next decade. Which of them will take over Tiger's crown?? That'll be worth watching.

    The other guy I would love to see win a major is Justin Rose. It would be such a fairy tale finish after all he has been through since 1998 at Birkdale.

  • Comment number 4.

    Even though as a spectacle it wasnt up there with the most dramatic of Opens, Oosthuizen performance was still top class, and yes he may have had the luck of the draw on Friday, but he still had to play the shots. I agree with MickeyHoolio, I cant get excited about Westwood or Casey, even though I was rooting for them on Sunday, you just dont get the impression that they have the necessary spark to get them over the line. Casey's missed birdie putt on the first summed it up for me, he missed severall like that on the back nine on Saturday too. I hope I'm wrong about Casey & Woods, excellent golfers, but missing the magic ingrediant?

  • Comment number 5.

    Well, I for one would be absolutely delighted if and when Lee Westwood wins a major. I've followed his career from the start and he is my favourite golfer of the last few years. His recent form and consistency is incredible and I believe he deserves to win a big one. I like Casey too, but I don't think he quite has that killer instinct to win majors, but hope I'm wrong. As for McIlroy, what a talent. Definitely the most likely to challenge for many more majors in the next few years (if Tiger lets him).

  • Comment number 6.

    Just shows the unpredictability of golf.The most you could safely predict is that most of the top 50 finishers in a major will come from, say, the top 100 ranked players in the world.Skill training and practice gets rewarded to a point in that it should guarantee you a reasonable placing but the tiny margins for error, vaguaries of the weather and going mentally AWOL for 9 holes mean that predicting a winner is nigh on impossible. Only the purest sports allow for such predictability ...e.g. where raw speed or strength are at predicitng the winner of the 100 metres or Olympic weightlifting champions.

  • Comment number 7.

    Congrats to Louis. Still can't help thinking he had a bit too much luck with the weather but he didn't buckle an inch really on Sunday if you compare his performance to say Ricky Barnes or Dustin Johnson in the last two US Opens where they folded all too easily.

    @ #1 Agree that's it is nice when our 'merrican friends do make more of an effort but last year's efforts of some (e.g. Anthony Kim, Phil, Ben Curtis etc.) to play two tours and join the Race to Dubai just didn't work for them that well. And JD does come over more than most but that's not straightforward either. He played on the European Tour when the PGA banned him for 6 months but where was he when that ban ran out?

    I guess the biggest threat to the European Tour over the next decade or more is not whether the 'merricans come play here or how much we lose players to the PGA, but the rise of the Asian tour with their stars, courses and money likely to create a serious rival.

  • Comment number 8.

    As always the BBC coverage of the golf was excellent. However, as a South African I was disappointed that none of the commentators managed to pronounce his name properly. It is perhaps understandable that on day one none of them had heard of him but he was the leader for three days and yet NONE of them managed to pronounce his name correctly even once! All they had to do was to ask him or any one of many South Africans there how to pronounce it. The pronunciation is not beyond the wit of a nation that can get "Chumley"out of Chalmondeley and "Sinjin" out of St John. It just needs a bit of application and practice, and perhaps a bit of respect. The worst was the Australian Grady, but that is perhaps understandable, as they pronounce maroon as "marone".

    Now, the OO is pronounced like mOOr and HUIZEN like brAZEN - it's not difficult. Just show the young man a bit of respect and do your homework!
    Congratulations to Louis - he played and won like a gentleman.

  • Comment number 9.

    One or two observations on the BBC coverage from Loch Lomond and St. Andrews:-
    Stephen Gallacher finished top Scot in both events - in the final round at Loch Lomond we saw him playing about 3 or 4 shots(NOT including his birdie at the last)although he was on the first page of the leader board all day. St. Andrews was even worse - we saw him holing out at the last.
    I did not see all of the coverage of the first 2 rounds at St. Andrews but on the second round when the groups containing Woods and McIlroy were out we saw little else but them - the leader boards shown were usually the first 2 pages - so we knew little of what many players were doing
    The alphabetical list at the bottom should be shown much more frequently and at a SLOWER speed - several times when I focussed on one player of the 3 I completely missec the other 2

  • Comment number 10.

    Louis got the luck of the draw with the wind on Friday but his performance on the weekend was pure self belief. I truly hope Westwoods time will come as he undoubtedly deservers to win one of golfs biggest prizes. I, however, do not feel the same about Casey. To me Casey comes across as smug and does not have the likability factor – his chance was gone as soon as he missed the birdie putt on 1.

    It would be good if McIlroy won a major in the next two years to get the ball rolling and become a multiple major champion. I cannot imagine how hard it is to win a major as Garcia has shown. It clearly eats away at Monty every time he wakes up in the morning.

    Roll on the PGA – an event that lacks character, identity and the magic of the other majors. Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel, Mark Brooks anyone??

  • Comment number 11.

    Well Done Louis! You played the game at St Andrews in a magnificent way........especially your drive up the 18th. You really deserved to win but I was quite disappointed because at the end of the game, my kids aged 8 and 10 who are keen young golfers waited for 20 minutes outside the corporate hospitality rooms waiting for you to come out. When you came out, you walked straight through, ignoring about 30 kids. With all due respect, since this was your first Major win, you shouldnt let the fame get to you within 15 minutes. They were only kids who wanted to meet an "idol".

  • Comment number 12.

    Great performance from Louis. Class golf, never really looked like wavering, and it was a tough week, as the other scores bear out. There is no arguing with a 7 shot margin.

    I agree that there is no inevitability about Lee or Casey or anyone else winning a major. Lee says he has to improve, which at least shows no complacency and ongoing desire. Casey has time and seems to have smartened up a bit, just had a bad couple of putting days.

    As for the PGA having no identity, I think it is a great tournament that combines a great field with playable, quality venues. There may have been some surprise winners, but that neither takes away from the value of a win or the championship itself. Recent PGA champions include Woods 4 times, Harrington, Mickelson, Singh - and Yang beat Woods down the stretch last year - would you devalue the tournament because of that. It happens sometimes, for the reasons in Ian's blog - there are a lot of good players and one of those sometimes hits an irresistable hot streak.

  • Comment number 13.

    Granted laertes: there has been some great champions in the PGA and some good finishes.

    It is still undoubtedly the poorest of all the majors and it does lack identity. The Open is the Open: the US open is the USAs national tournament with high rough and par a test and The Masters has Augusta. Even The Players has sawgrass!

    The PGA has tried to look like a US open in the past and really it has the feel of a normal tour event, all be it a big one!

    If you asked any Pro the PGA would be fourth on there to do list! Even Monty says it lacks magic in his autobiography and he would have swam to the US if it meant lifting the trophy!

    If you asked Tom Watson if he could win one more golf tournament I don’t think it would be the PGA and complete a carrier Grand Slam – it would be the open at St. Andrews!

  • Comment number 14.

    Enough talk of the PGA, that is for next monty. Westy, Rory and Casey all put in fine performances, and Rory's post final round interview was excellent, he admitted that he had not dealt with the conditionson Friday as he might of and that it was a real opportunity missed - there was no talk of 'if I just kleep knocking onthe door' that we hear all the time from Westwood. It really concerns me that he is not trying to make it happen, not playing THAT shot fromt he pine needles at Augusta.

    I feel that Rory is the most likely to win a major next time around, because he is willing to make it happen, willing to go for a 63 at the Old Course and I bet he lies awake thinking about the short putt on 17 that would potentially have given him the first ever 62 in a major. I don't get that impression from Westwood, it is as if being a good player is enough. Last week Louis had the X Factor and he didn't half play well. What a victory and a fabulous champion. Good luck to him.

    Westwood is an extremely wealthy man, seems like a great bloke and a fabulous player. But I really feel he needs make something happen. Same with Casey for what it's worth, but to be fair he stuck it in the gorse on 12 whenm he was going for it, and in response to a first class drive from Louis.

  • Comment number 15.

    Beeb coverage: they didn't show enough of the road hole tee shot and they showed a fair bit too much of Ian Poulter generally; a man not contending and (although I quite like him) not of any special interest.

  • Comment number 16.

    golfer901: I think you're being a bit harsh accusing Louis of letting the win 'go to his head' already. He had just won his first major, and would have been mobbed by people the entire time you were waiting. I realise you wanted him to meet your kids, but so did thousands of others. He seems like quite a down-to-earth guy but would hardly have been thinking straight at this point. Why not judge him on his future conduct rather than just rushing to conclusions because he didn't make time for your children shortly after the biggest moment in his life.


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