Oosthuizen writes name in history with nerveless finale

Unfancied South African refuses to buckle as Casey's challenge falls flat on final day

James Corrigan
Monday 19 July 2010 00:00

Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, John Daly, Tiger Woods... maybe the name Louis Oosthuizen does jar a little on this list. It shouldn't. For the manner in which the South African won the 139th Open here yesterday would have made any of his fellow St Andrews champions proud. He did not merely defeat his rivals, so much as crush them deep into the sand beneath ground.

Paul Casey was the most pitiful victim – the great home hope to end not only the ghastly British sporting summer but also the Open drought which will now extend to a dozen years. Within four strokes at the start, Casey was only able to land the faintest of blows on his playing partner. In return, he received so many haymakers from the farmer's son.

Despite operating under the most intense pressure, Oosthuizen, a 250-1 outsider at the start of the week, actually extended his advantage. His 71 for a 16-under total afforded him a seven-stroke victory, the largest since Tiger Woods here a decade ago. That outrageous margin was nothing less than he deserved.

Yet there will doubtless be those who will slam this as the worst Open in recent memory, who will not only look at this unlikely, unfashionable winner but at the awful weather which blighted the first few days and the displays of the bigger, more familiar names in the sport. But credit should truly be given to Oosthuizen in abundance for a display of such all-round brilliance in both the swing and the mind that had it been produced by Woods it would have been hailed as one of his famous command performances.

Yes, so much about Oosthuizen's week with the immortals insists he will be anything but the one-time golfing wonder in this all-time golfing wonderland. He is only 27, hits it a solid mile and has the putting game and nerve to grace any stage.

The only mystery is where he has been hiding these last few years. He was regarded as an underachiever on the European Tour, having won only once – in Spain in March – after contending so often. Oosthuizen had previously shown a gross aversion to majors, surviving one cut in eight. At 54 in the world rankings, the name Oosthuizen was on the anoraks' radar only. Until now, anyway.

Now he is in the top 15 and the big time, particularly in his own country, as he becomes the fourth South African to have their name on the Claret Jug. Locke, Player, Els... another club of legends to join.

Where Casey goes from here is not so clear. He promised and expected so much more than his final-round 75. At eight-under, he even handed over second to his fellow Englishman Lee Westwood, falling back into a tie for third with Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy. As ever in golf, it was the poor chap nearest the glare of the glory who was burned most painfully.

In fairness, Casey did have his chances but, in hindsight, they probably began and ended with the five-foot birdie putt he yanked on the first. A three on the par-four sixth for Casey and a four on the par-three eighth for Oosthuizen did close the gap to three. But this window of opportunity was the most sudden and cruel of mirages. Oosthuizen's 50-foot eagle putt across the ninth green ripped the guts from both Casey and the atmosphere. And this is when Louis finally punched the air in celebration.

He had been the inscrutable leader until that moment, but now the excitement could be seen building in his eyes. On the 12th, any lingering doubts were cast off into St Andrews Bay. Casey drove into the gorse, was forced to take a penalty drop and from there could only make a triple-bogey. Meanwhile, the man upsides only went and birdied. The deficit was now a whopping eight shots. Message to the Claret Jug inscriber – it's O.O.S.T.H.U.I.Z.EN. And take your time.

There was plenty of that as the last hour-and-a-half turned into the kind of soulless procession which no other player has been comfortable enough to produce in the Tiger era. Until Oosthuizen's coronation could be confirmed, there was the chance to reflect on the other performances.

In truth, Westwood was never a factor on this last day but his closing 70 did secure his second runner-up major placing of the year and his fourth podium finish from the last five majors. Westwood is unarguably the finest player tee-to-green in the world at the moment. When the putts eventually consent to drop, the elusive major will be his. No doubt.

There can be similar certainty surrounding Rory McIlroy's bright future. The 21-year-old bounced back from his second-round 80 with commendable courage to finish 69-68 to tie for fourth. McIlroy was swaggering when he walked off, a pleasing sight when one recalled the crumpled figure he presented on Friday.

Meanwhile, had anyone spotted any Americans in town? They had come in with seven of the last 10 Opens to their name and six of the last nine St Andrews Opens. But last night their challenge was strewn all over Fife.

At the start of the week Ian Poulter said there was a window for 15 years of European domination and this leaderboard backed him up. Six Euros in the top 10, and two Americans. And Nick Watney and Sean O'Hair were tied for seventh. This was just the second time in the half-century the US pros have been competing in this major they could not boast one in the top six.

Of course, in any other year Woods would have masked their mediocrity. But as far as he was concerned, this was anything but "any other year". He had tied for fourth in his two majors since returning from self-enforced exile but here he was, tied for 23rd after a lifeless 72. In truth, that is more representative of where he is. He is so desperate about his putting, he yesterday switched back to the implement he discarded before the first round. Right now, Woods looks like one of the gang. Winless in 2010, hoping for the breakthrough.

Woods was long gone by the time it was Oosthuizen's chance to take the stress-free victory walk up the famous 18th. He did all the right things, as he had all tournament. He raised his cap, high-fived his caddie and hugged his wife and baby daughter. They nicknamed Oosthuizen after the gap-toothed ogre and in the end it turned out just like the movie. Shrek beat Prince Charming to the girl. Who would have thought it?

Final leader board

Final round scores at the139th Open Championship (St Andrews Old Course, Fife, Scotland)
(GB & Irl unless stated, par 72):

272 L Oosthuizen (SA)

279 L Westwood

280 R McIlroy, H Stenson (Swe), P Casey

281 R Goosen (SA)

282 R Rock, S O'Hair (US), N Watney (US), M Kaymer (Ger)

283 A Quiros (Sp), J Overton (US), L Donald

284 R Fowler (US), T Lehman (US), C Schwartzel (SA), I Garrido (Sp), *J Jeong (S Kor), R Karlsson (Swe), S Garcia (Sp), JB Holmes (US), D Johnson (US)

285 T Immelman (SA), G McDowell, S Gallacher, T Woods (US)

286 E Molinari (It), M Kuchar (US), R Ishikawa (Japan), B Dredge, M Siem (Ger), R Allenby (Aus), A Scott (Aus), K Na (US), M A Jimenez (Sp), A Canizares (Sp)

287 V Singh (Fiji), C Moriarty (Irl), H Mahan (US), S Kjeldsen (Den), P Hanson (Swe), R Fisher, S Lowry

288 D Clarke, B V Pelt (US), C Villegas (Col), R Barnes (US)

289 J Senden (Aus), S Dyson, Kim Kyung-Tae (S Kor), J Daly (US), S Cink (US), P Mickelson (US), L Glover (US)

290 D Chia (Malay), S Khan, Z Scotland, S Stricker (US), S Marino (US)

291 I Poulter, J Day (Aus), P Senior (Aus), H Slocum (US), T Taniguchi (Japan), YE Yang (S Kor), T Pernice Jnr (US), M Leishman (Aus)

292 C Montgomerie, H Miyase (Japan), S Tiley, F Andersson Hed (Swe)

293 A Coltart

294 M Calcavecchia (US)

295 R S Johnson (Swe), T Aiken (SA)

296 Z Johnson (US), S Verplank (US) *denotes amateur

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