Oosthuizen sur­prises with Open lead

south african, un­known un­til now, surges ahead with a 5-un­der-par 67

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Bill Dwyre

ST. AN­DREWS, Scot­land — Af­ter two rounds of this year’s pres­ti­gious Bri­tish Open, it is pretty much as we all thought. Louis Oosthuizen is lead­ing by five shots.

Make that Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen.

“It’s my grand­fa­ther’s name,” the 27-year-old South African said. “They call me Louis now.”

Well, not ev­ery­body. The woman who in­tro­duced Oosthuizen for his news con­fer­ence called him Peter Oosthuizen. Peter Ooster­huis is the for­mer English golf star and oc­ca­sional tele­vi­sion com­men­ta­tor who is 62 now. Still, he re­mains more fa­mous than Louis Oosthuizen, who, un­til Fri­day, wasn’t even as fa­mous as the guy an­nounc­ing the play­ers on the first tee.

But then came a round of golf not of­ten seen in day­long con­di­tions more con­ducive to sit­ting by a fire and read­ing a book than play­ing golf. That put Oosthuizen on the golf world’s radar.

His fa­ther is a farmer, he once was a top ju­nior ten­nis player, and the only way he was able to fi­nan­cially nav­i­gate his way through the early years of pro golf was with help from the Ernie Els Foun­da­tion, which backs young golfers from Els’ coun­try.

He has got­ten into eight ma­jors and missed the cut in all but one, the 2008 PGA. He was asked, given this record, if he had rented a house in St. An­drews for two days or four. That ques­tion would have of­fended most golfers. Oosthuizen laughed.

“Booked a house through Sun­day night,” he said. “I was plan­ning on mak­ing the cut.”

One sus­pects he wasn’t plan­ning on shoot­ing 67-65 and lead­ing by five shots af­ter 36 holes. Had you put a nice bun­dle down on that in Las Ve­gas, you’d be fly­ing your own jet over right now to watch the week­end.

Oosthuizen’s lead was as mirac­u­lous as the weather was mys­ti­fy­ing. He played in the morn­ing, when it rained cats and dogs. It also blew so hard for most of his round that he de­scribed one of his tac­tics as hav­ing to “fo­cus on where you are point­ing your um­brella, oth­er­wise, you don’t have one.”

Still, he shot a 5-un­der-par 67, with seven birdies and two bo­geys, to go with Thurs­day’s 65.

Oosthuizen, pro­nounced West-HiZen, said he was proud be­cause, “I strug­gle in rainy sit­u­a­tions, re­ally, and to­day I got my head around it.”

Not so for some of the big­ger-name lead­ers, who went out in the af­ter­noon, when the rain stopped but the wind got even worse. They weath­ered a 1-hour, 5-minute stop­page of play be­cause the wind was mov­ing balls on the putting sur­face.

The af­ter­noon wind, un­der a sunny sky and fast-mov­ing clouds and ac­cented by an ocean roil­ing nearby, cer­tainly helped keep alive the mys­tique of St. An­drews, where games of even the best golfers in the world come to die in con­di­tions such as Fri­day’s. There are hun­dreds of ways to de­scribe the gusts of up to 41 mph, but a com­men­ta­tor from the BBC did it best. South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen took the lead at the Bri­tish Open on Fri­day, shoot­ing a 5-un­der-par 67 at St. An­drews in Scot­land amid heavy rain. ‘I strug­gle in rainy sit­u­a­tions, re­ally, and to­day I got my head around it,’ he said.

“The seag­ulls are walk­ing,” she said.

Oosthuizen is fly­ing, much to the shock of all.

In his ré­sumé is a 57, shot in a round with friends in De­cem­ber 2002, shortly be­fore he turned pro. The score­card from that day shows eleven 3’s and two 2’s on a full-size, par-72 course in South Africa. He used to have a Shrek head-cover on his clubs, but his caddy told him to toss that be­cause it was bad luck. Why Shrek? It’s his nick­name. “It’s the gap in my teeth,” Oosthuizen said. “My friends say I look like Shrek. And you can’t choose your friends, so what can I say?”

Friends? If Oosthuizen some­how wins out in this war of weather and willpower, he’ll have mil­lions of them.

Peter Mor­ri­son

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