'I felt a bit special. I was thinking about Mandela's birthday'

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The Independent Online

With the first line of his victory speech Louis Oosthuizen wished a happy 92nd birthday to Nelson Mandela and afterwards he described how thoughts of South Africa's former president inspired him to win the Open by the second largest margin in 97 years. That and a phone call from Gary Player.

"I woke up this morning and I didn't know it was his birthday, but I saw it on the news," said Oosthuizen. "It felt a bit special out there. I was thinking about his birthday. What he's done for our country is unbelievable."

Oosthuizen took a four-stroke lead into the final round and many doubted whether he would have the wherewithal to deal with such pressure, particularly with the British galleries cheering on their men in pursuit.

"Gary and I had a little chat in our home language of Afrikaans," he said, after collecting the £850,000 first prize. "He said to stay calm out there, have a lot of fun and that the crowd was probably going to be on the side of Paul [Casey].

"He told me the story when he played against Arnold Palmer when he won his first Masters. He said they wanted to throw stuff at him. It meant a lot him phoning me up."

Oosthuizen also praised Ernie Els, whose foundation gave him his real start in the game, but admitted he could not yet appreciate what he has achieved.

"It's probably going to hit me tomorrow or the week after," he said. "It was a battle for me to keep calm. I'd like to have kept the record of not going in the bunker [as Tiger Woods did in 2000], but I went in one on the 14th."

The stunning win was welcomed by his countrymen. Retief Goosen is now one of four South Africans to win majors this century. "Shrek is on the move," said Goosen, referring to Oosthuizen's nickname. "We knew he had a lot of talent. He grew up in area that's very windy, so for him these conditions are normal. The guy's got one of the best swings on tour. I think he'll be around for many years to come."

Meanwhile, the runner-up took consolation from the fact the winner had performed so expertly. "Whether I won the tournament today was in the hands of other people," said Lee Westwood, who lost by one at Turnberry last year and who was second to Phil Mickelson at The Masters in April.

"Louis thoroughly deserves to win so there's not even any real disappointment. I didn't even get within eight shots today. I don't know if the major win is around the corner. But hopefully it's about three weeks away at the USPGA."

It was a similar story from Paul Casey. "As disappointed as I am with the way I played today, Louis was in a different league," he said after his 75 demoted him to a tie for third. "That softens my disappointment slightly. But it was a frustrating day. I played pretty solid for most of it; certainly got a few bad breaks."

Rory McIlroy also confessed to thinking about the could-have-beens despite finishing the weekend 69-68 to climb alongside Casey and Henrik Stenson.

"I couldn't help but think about my 80 on Friday going up the last hole today," said McIlroy. "You know, if I had just sort of stuck in a little bit more and held it together more, it could have been different.

"But it's not going to give me nightmares. I'll wake up and just look at the fact I was 16-under for three rounds around St Andrews in the Open. I had just one bad round. It's fine."