Expect calm Oosthuizen to collect more major crowns
SALLY JENKINS | THE WASHINGTON POST Winner was steady in face of stiff winds at St. Andrews
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.