Oosthuizen ticks a big box with SA Open victory

Oosthuizen ticks a big box with SA Open victory

South African Open Championship winner Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa kisses the trophy during day 4 of the SA Open at Randpark Golf Club on December 09, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images)

He made a ropey start, but then showed immense class to finally claim the elusive local title.

Louis Oosthuizen ticked off a massive item on his wishlist when he conquered Randpark Golf Club to win the South African Open on Sunday, the man who celebrated his 36th birthday in October firing a classy 67 in the final round to finish on 18-under-par, six strokes clear of his nearest challenger.

After a ropey start with bogeys on the second and third holes, Oosthuizen was masterful in collecting five birdies and an eagle thereafter.

Two shots in particular stood out and showed why the 2010 Open champion is South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer.

Standing on the tee at the 348-metre par-four ninth, Oosthuizen changed from the four-iron he had been hitting all week to a driver, prompted by a little chat compatriot Branden Grace had with him the night before.

“I’d been hitting four-iron every day but then Branden invited me to a barbecue last night and he asked me why I did that because he said I could hit driver on to the green. So I looked at the numbers but I didn’t really think I could get there, but the wind today was perfect and the area just short I was aiming for was flat, maybe a little downhill. And I hit a brilliant drive, probably the best of the day, but thanks to Branden,” Oosthuizen said after his triumph.

Having knocked the ball on the green, Oosthuizen narrowly missed his eagle putt, but his birdie put him five strokes clear at the turn. When the world number 36 (he will be number 25 when the rankings are updated) then eagled the par-five 14th after hitting a magnificent nine-iron approach from 180 yards to a couple of feet, the contest was over with Oosthuizen enjoying a six-stroke lead with four holes to play.

“To have my name up with those greats, to be only the fourth South African [after Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Ernie Els] to win both the British and the SA Opens, feels really special. Any South African golfer wants to win this one and, after coming close in the Nedbank Golf Challenge but just being outplayed by a brilliant last round by Lee Westwood, that hurt so I made sure I was really focused this week.

“I decided not to get down on myself and to pick myself up when things went wrong, and I did that very well this week. I’ve been through some stuff in the last year and I’ve felt I’ve played good golf but my scoring just hasn’t been good. The back is great, I’m back with my fitness trainer and a new coach, and it’s great to see results in a shortish period of time,” Oosthuizen said.

Oosthuizen did hit some poor shots off the tee on Sunday, but his putting was superb and his work on the greens is what kept him out of trouble and ahead of his challengers, who also struggled at the start of the final day.

“It was a tough start and I could have easily lost my three-shot lead, but fortunately everyone else seemed to be struggling as well. I hit a few bad drives today but my putting was as good as it’s ever been. If you know you’re putting well, it takes massive pressure off you and I was able to make a few six-footers for par. If you’re not putting well then you tend to be lagging your putts and hoping for the best.

“When you’re leading through 54 holes then whatever you’re doing, you must stick with it, your game-plan is working. When you have a massive lead you don’t have to take on any risks, you can just play safe, but it sometimes gets difficult when you have a big lead because your mind can easily wander and you make stupid mistakes. But I didn’t take my foot off the pedal, I stayed on my game even after that tough start,” a delighted Oosthuizen said.

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