Star Shrek goes beyond final frontier
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."
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.
"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."
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.