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Star Shrek goes beyond final frontier

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Rob Hodgetts | 21:25 UK time, Sunday, 18 July 2010

Open champion Louis Oosthuizen reckons he has a problem concentrating. To re-focus he stares on a red spot on the back of his glove before hitting a shot.

"It's my trigger," he says. It seems to work. The 27-year-old South African kept the world's best players at bay for more than two days to land his maiden major title at the iconic home of golf. Winning any major is special. Winning at St Andrews is a lifetime ambition for most.

Despite winning by seven shots, the man they call "Shrek" - because of his resemblance to the film character - only relaxed after his drive hit the deck on the 18th.

"That's one thing I learned in this game," he said. "You're only certain when the last putt goes in. But I didn't think I would 10-putt from there."


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Final round highlights (UK only)

Oosthuizen's win, on Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday, came with the backing of South Africa's golfing heavyweights. He is a protege of Ernie Els's foundation and nine-time major champion Gary Player rang him up for a little chat before the final round.

Apparently, the 74-year-old legend told him to ignore the roars of a home crowd desperate for a British winner.

"He told me the story when he played against Arnold Palmer when he won his first Masters," revealed Oosthuizen. "He said, 'the crowd wanted to throw stuff at me'. But he was so focused on winning at Augusta."

But there were plenty of South African fans on the Old Course, decked in trousers in the colours of the national flag or Springbok rugby shirts.

Not that Oosthuizen really needed their encouragement. Colin Montgomerie spoke before the last pair went out that it was easier to defend on the Old Course than attack in the final round.

And so it proved. Four ahead of Paul Casey at the start, Oosthuizen was only ever troubled after a bogey at the eighth narrowed the gap to three. And when Casey ran up a triple bogey on the 12th, the game was up.

Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood made some ground as Casey fell away, but no-one could touch the man from Mossel Bay.

"It's like being 4-0 up at half-time," muttered a Scotsman in the crowd. "Aye, with a couple of sendings off," said his mate.

Not that Oosthuizen would have cared that it wasn't the most riveting of final days. He gets to add his name to an illustrious list of past winners on the Old Course that includes Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods.

And he joins a conveyor belt of South African major champions - Bobby Locke, who won at St Andrews in 1957, Player, who won three Opens in three different decades, three-time major winner Els, double US Open champion Retief Goosen and 2008 Masters victor Trevor Immelman.

Els, whose Foundation helped Oosthuizen with his education and travel to tournaments around the world, was ecstatic.

"This is absolutely unbelievable," he said. "It would be difficult to find anybody in the world who is more proud of him right now. I could not be happier.

"Louis is simply a wonderful kid. You cannot find a better one and I am so pleased for him.

"The world might know more about him now, but even before today he had started his own Foundation to help kids who are needy. They could not have a better role model.

"Louis is now the Open champion. His life will change. He won't."

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Open triumph yet to sink in for Oosthuizen

Oosthuizen has already changed, though. He had a reputation for being an angry young man when things weren't going right on the course.

"It was just a matter of growing up, really," he said. "I think any youngster that's playing makes stupid mistakes on the course. It frustrates you."

One youngster who might have thrown his toys out of the pram was McIlroy. The 21-year-old fired a stunning 63 to lead after round one on a course where he had never carded worse than 69 in eight rounds of golf.

But then he amassed an 80 on "Ferocious Friday" to go spinning backwards as Oosthuizen romped into the lead in benign morning conditions. To McIlroy's considerable credit, he hit back with rounds of 69 and 68 to finish in a tie for third and was left to rue what might have been.

"I'm a bit disappointed, to be honest," he said. "I'm not saying I could have got to 17 under, but I definitely could have been contending for second."

You sense McIlroy's time is fast approaching. As for Lee Westwood, a fourth top- three finish in five majors in no mean feat. The 37-year-old used his experience of contending in major championships to keep plugging away and emerged at the top of the chasing pack.

"It's not really to be sniffed at," Westwood said of his major record. "If you get close and you lose then there's disappointment, but I didn't even get within eight shots." The law of averages might suggest he will find no-one else in front of him one day. But how long before a man cracks?

Despite his woes, and it was only a gorse bush on one hole that did for him, Casey posted his best major performance in the tournament he least expected to do well in, given his adaptation to a more American style of game.

He refused to be too downhearted, given the size of Oosthuizen's win, and considering he was seriously worried last year his career at the very top might be over because of his ongoing rib injury.

"Louis was in a different league," he said. "That softens my disappointment."

And what of Woods? Not as good as his two fourths in the year's two previous majors. A brief threat, but no more. He began with a new putter for the first time in 11 years and then went back to the old one for the final round.

So where's he at? Still a work in progress, seems to be the answer. "Driving-wise, better than it's been in years. Iron play, not quite as sharp as I need to have it, and my putting is way off," said Woods, who took nine three-putts during the week.

Casey's coach, the American Peter Kostis, reckons Woods's swing looks better than it has for a while. Standing closer to the ball and more upright plane, apparently. "He's better, but he's not there yet," said Kostis.

Woods still has private life issues to resolve, but the golfing public at St Andrews didn't appear to care. It was golf they were interested in, not tittle-tattle.

But "Oosty" should have the final word. In fact, Oosty paid for the final word. He bought champagne for the entire media centre after his victory.

"Winning at St Andrews is something you dream about", he said. Who are we to decry a man his dream?

Long live King Louis.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Must say it was nice to see a bit of Fanny on the course.

    Brought back some lovely memories of Faldo being at his best.

  • Comment number 2.

    A very classy win. Be interesting to see how he goes from here.

  • Comment number 3.

    A good way to mark the 150th anniversary. Last day was amazing. We saw more than one "better than most", a rarity, I would think.

  • Comment number 4.

    The European efforts this week bode well for the Ryder Cup and I will be watching the US PGA in a month to see how our side competes there. Monty could have a very hot team to lead. Pleased for Louis and his family. He played so well and the rest simply were not good enough. Great week and spectacular coverage of this event.

  • Comment number 5.

    That Tiger did not win is tempered by Oosthuizens victory. Some great play & a first time winner. Great going 'Oosty'.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is truely the year for South Africa - a successful World Cup, and now a British Open Champion ! LO, congratulation !

  • Comment number 7.

    Get in Louis!

    But why the Shrek nickname? Looks nothing like the big, green fella.

    Elton John, on the other hand...

  • Comment number 8.

    We were there all week and no-one looked as cool calm and collected as Louis - a well deserved win

    He kept going when all around faltered along the way - wish I'd put my shirt on him after his round on Friday.

    A great day for South Africa on Nelson Mandela's birthday.

  • Comment number 9.

    Obviously congratulations to Louis and the whole SA system of 'churning' out world class golfers. Long may it continue. Good to see his fellow SA's there at the end cheering him on.

    One incident that I haven't seen mentioned is the sportsmanship of Paul Casey, particularly on the 17th. Louis had moved his marker out of Casey's way and you could see Casey checking with Louis & his caddy that he had moved it back before he putted out in order to avoid any penalties. I think a really nice touch and in keeping with the spirit of golf! Well done Paul & I'm sure your turn will come soon.

  • Comment number 10.

    Very dissapointed for McIlroy, i do agree his time is coming, but it seems to be a sentence we repeat alot for the top british golfers. e.g Westwood, Casey, Poulter, Donald. The big trophies just seem to elude these great golfers. I felt a bit for McIlroy he had a horrendous experience on Friday. Also westwood, who Tee to green was immense but putting was not good enough.
    As this is a column about 'Oosty' congratulations to him he played the right golf at the right time with a bit of luck wetaher-wise thrown in.

  • Comment number 11.

    #1 Great comment - a gem and it works on so many levels

  • Comment number 12.

    I see so many reporters refer to it as the "British Open". Is that not in fact wrong? Is it not "The Open Championship" . did the official name change at some point in history?

  • Comment number 13.

    Instead of the usual five year visit to St.Andrews why not change it to every fifty years.It has to be the worst venue on The Open rota for spectator access and atmosphere. The course itself is no more than average too.

  • Comment number 14.

    Can we once and for all get the pronounciation of this man's name right, he tried countless times with the media to tell them but time and time again they revert back to 'say what you see' english.
    Wiki do this best, so practise his name and stick with it, it took us long enough to get Olazabal:
    Lodewicus Theodorus "Louis" Oosthuizen (English pronunciation: /'luː iː 'wu:st haɪ zɛn/ or LOO-ee WUHST-hay-zen;[1] born 19 October 1982) is a South African professional golfer, who won the 2010 Open Championship.

  • Comment number 15.

    Why was there a need to refer to the nickname. I'm fairly sure the nickname is not of the man's own choosing, and is nothing more than a reflection of the current trend to mock people purely for their appearance.

    Did the author of the article enjoy some sort of satisfaction from this, or was he trying to cover his own inadequacy as a jounalist?

  • Comment number 16.

    RE: Apparently, the 74-year-old legend told him to ignore the roars of a home crowd desperate for a British winner.

    "He told me the story when he played against Arnold Palmer when he won his first Masters," revealed Oosthuizen. "He said, 'the crowd wanted to throw stuff at me'. But he was so focused on winning at Augusta."


    Is Gary Player's comparison to an American crowd at Augusta either necessary or relevant. I wasn't there, but I would imagine the Scottish public are appreciative of the skill of the professional golfers, rather than baying for the blood of any non-British contender.

    It seemed to me that the spectators were respectful and supportative of Oosthuizen's play and position.

  • Comment number 17.

    Rob,
    Wouldn't it have been more interesting to hear what Kostis had to say about Paul Casey's swing and overall performance?
    Previous comments about Woods's short irons still apply. Not sure why the media give Tiger a free pass by letting him blame his putter; when he rediscovers his precise distance control that was such a hallmark of his game, the putting will come along nicely. He may have made 9 x 3-putts but most were from distant zip-codes.
    Kudos to Oosthuizen though, what a win. Thanks for your coverage during the week; long may it continue!

  • Comment number 18.

    I am delighted for Louis but a previous commenter was correct about the lack of atmosphere on the final day. It was really dead until about the last 3 holes. There weren't nearly as many spectators as you would expect at a major. There always seems to be more buzz at the majors in America.

  • Comment number 19.

    To the names of Paul Lawrie...........Ben Curtis.......Todd Hamilton..........add the name Louis Oosthuizen.

    Surprise recent first time winners of the Open who were seldom heard of before their win and disappeared without trace after it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Mancabroad - The nickname was being widely used all week and was one of the themes of Louis' win.

    Timberdoodle - it's not a comment on the St Andrews crowd, it's Player's way of encouraging his man to block out all the distractions, one of which could have been the home support for Casey.

    Kwini - Kostis was talking before the final round, and just chatting generally about Tiger. You're right about the putting stats - less relevant on the Old Course because of the size of greens, but interesting nonetheless.

    Hunk4hire - everyone's got to win their first major sometime. It's no less of an achievement just because most of us haven't heard of him.

  • Comment number 21.

    Who would of dreamed of a better script for this championship. Louis win was no fluke, over the 4 days he was the most consistent player, with a great swing and most of all a top temperament which is 50% of playing golf, plus i like my champions to be modest and humble, like Sir Chris Hoy and sir Steven Redgrave, he will be a great role model for young people who are taking up the game of golf, plus also a lesson for older golfers on how to behave on a golf course. he did South Africa proud and on the great mans birthday as well. Wish you all the best for the future Louis you were a credit to your profession.

  • Comment number 22.

    This is really good information about star shrek and regenerect. I look forward to reading more of your posts Rob!

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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