Oosthuizen surprises with Open lead
south african, unknown until now, surges ahead with a 5-under-par 67
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.