Ex­pect calm Oosthuizen to col­lect more ma­jor crowns

SALLY JENK­INS | THE WASHINGTON POST Win­ner was steady in face of stiff winds at St. An­drews

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

ST. AN­DREWS, Scot­land — To by­standers, Louis Oosthuizen seemed to be strolling by the sil­very beach of the North Sea. White seag­ulls drifted over­head like scraps of paper, and the flight of his golf ball traced pretty paths against the pale sky. He passed down St An­drews’ broad fair­ways like he was out for fresh air. There was more drama in church or at brunch than in the fi­nal round of this Bri­tish Open.

The prob­lem with a great per­for­mance is that it can be mo­not­o­nous. It wasn’t dull for Oosthuizen, of course, tensely ne­go­ti­at­ing the dangers of the Old Course. But for the rest of us, Oosthuizen’s tech­ni­cal sound­ness and un­shake­able dis­po­si­tion turned the last day of this ma­jor cham­pi­onship into a sight­see­ing trip.

The real com­pe­ti­tion was over hours be­fore the tour­na­ment ac­tu­ally ended with his 71 and seven-stroke vic­tory. From the out­set to the fin­ish, Oosthuizen was the straight­est driver, best ball striker and purest put­ter in the field. More­over, the 27-year-old farmer’s son from South Africa showed the stead­i­est tem­per­a­ment, suf­fer­ing not a sin­gle hand trem­ble.

Oosthuizen is a de­cep­tively blase cham­pion. His vic­tory didn’t have the majesty of Tiger Woods’ eight-stroke tri­umph here in 2000. He came seem­ingly out of no- Louis Oosthuizen cel­e­brates on the 18th green with his wife Nel-Mare and baby af­ter win­ning the Bri­tish Open. where, hav­ing missed seven of eight cuts in pre­vi­ous ma­jors. And no­body could get his name right.

But it’s a his­tor­i­cal fact that the Old Course doesn’t suf­fer fools or re­ward flukes. Ev­ery­thing sug­gested it would be a grave mis­take to write Oosthuizen off as just a one-time win­ner, who won’t trou­ble us by con­tend­ing again.

Oosthuizen went 65-67-69 for the first three rounds on a course sewn with land­mines and tor­tured by change­able weather. More ca­sual or cyn­i­cal ob­servers could be par­doned for pre­dict­ing he would choke — “That’s a pretty mean say­ing,” he said — but knowl­edge­able in­sid­ers un­der­stood Oosthuizen would have to be reck­oned with.

Oosthuizen was so steady off the tee that he hardly both­ered to watch his ball land. He would stripe it down the mid­dle, then lean over and re­trieve his tee and thrust his club back in the bag mat­ter-of-factly. There was sim­ply no sign of weak­ness in Oosthuizen’s game, or his mind.

Golf has had a deep run of first-time ma­jor cham­pi­ons lately, and they haven’t ex­actly en­hanced the game’s star qual­ity. The 2009 Bri­tish cham­pion, Ste­wart Cink, has just one top-five fin­ish in his last 23 tour­na­ments. The 2009 U.S. Open cham­pion, Lu­cas Glover, has just two top fives in his last 26. The 2009 PGA win­ner, Y.E. Yang, missed three of his last four cuts com­ing into this week.

The spec­ta­tor won­ders, where are the new play­ers who are go­ing to be in record books? Who will be names of his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance? The horde of promis­ing young play­ers, such as Rory McIlroy, Dustin John­son and Ryo Ishikawa, has yet to ma­ture.

In or­der be con­sid­ered some­thing more than an anom­aly, Oosthuizen will have to win more ma­jors. But his per­for­mance here sug­gests he can win again. Only 14 men have won a ma­jor ti­tle by seven or more strokes. Just two of them were one-and-done win­ners: Fred Herd (1898 U.S. Open by seven), and Wil­lie Smith (1899 U.S. Open by 11).

If Oosthuizen gave us a less-than-thrilling fin­ish on Sun­day, there was the dis­tinct sense that, in the long run, he will be an in­ter­est­ing devel­op­ment for golf. As he walked up 18, the St. An­drews crowd roared for him with the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of con­nois­seurs who knew the qual­ity of what they had just watched.

Tim Hales

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