Unlikely Champion

By Jay CoffinJuly 18, 2010, 2:21 am

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Consensus around town is that dudes named Louis Oosthuizen don’t win Open Championships at the Old Course.

It’s been the common theme among scribes, patrons and passersby the past three days. No disrespect to the unheralded South African but these hallowed grounds are reserved for legends named Woods, Faldo, Nicklaus, Snead and Jones.

But, just as the week has been unpredictable, it’d only be following the script if an unpredictable champion walked away with his first major championship, the claret jug and the title of Champion Golfer of the Year.

Would Oosthuizen be a more unlikely winner than, say, a 59-year-old Tom Watson or an aging Greg Norman? Would he come from further off the radar than Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis or Paul Lawrie?

No. But this is St. Andrews. It’s the home of golf. It’s the Old Course.

“I don’t think anyone was thinking I was going to be up there,” Oosthuizen said. “No one can actually say my surname, so they don’t even know who I am out there.”

Perhaps Oosthuizen (pronounced WUHST’-hy-zen) is this generation’s Tony Lema, the 1964 Open winner here who downed Jack Nicklaus by five shots. Although “Champagne Tony” was a surprise winner, it’s still an apples-to-oranges comparison with Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen, 27, has only won once on the European Tour and has missed the cut in seven-of-eight majors that he’s played. His best finish is a 73rd place in the 2008 PGA Championship.

Louis Oosthuizen
Oosthuizen takes a 4-shot lead into Sunday at St. Andrews. (Getty Images)

Lema entered the ’64 Open Championship having won three of his previous four events in the U.S. The real oddity is that he arrived at the Old Course two days prior to the championship and it was the first time he’d ever seen the place. He hired a local caddie that Arnold Palmer recommended, somehow quickly mastered the art of links golf, drove the ball and stomped the Golden Bear by week’s end.

I realize it’s just a hang-up with the Old Course.

If you close your eyes and pretend that you’re at any other Open venue, there are similarities between Oosthuizen and recent major champions. Graeme McDowell, last month’s U.S. Open winner, and Oosthuizen both have compact, repeatable swings and make every crucial putt they have to. Lucas Glover, 2009 U.S. Open champion, stayed calm all week – another Oosthuizen trait. Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, has the same South African roots as Oosthuizen and both grew up idolizing Gary Player and Ernie Els.

“Louis has actually been playing some really good golf this year,” said Retief Goosen. “He has one of the best golf swings on Tour, and he’s a good wind player, grew up in an area that’s very windy.

“He’s very focused, very nice guy, one of the nicest guys on Tour.”

During a Saturday 69, when the whole world though he’d wilt like a daisy on a hot summer day in the south, Oosthuizen showed traits that a champion needs. He was calm, cool and collected. Almost like a mirror image of fellow countryman Goosen.

After a nervous three-putt at the first that produced sighs from the gallery almost in unison, he made birdies at Nos. 7 and 9. He then poured in two more birdies at the 16th and 18th holes to take a four-shot lead into the final round over Paul Casey.

“Tomorrow I’m probably going to do pretty much the same and just go out there, hit shot for shot and never get ahead of myself,” Oosthuizen said. “The Open at St. Andrews would be something special. It’s one of those things you dream of.”

When the sun sets on St. Andrews Sunday evening Oosthuizen won’t care that his name doesn’t fit well with previous champions at the venerable venue and, chances are, if victorious, he’ll be more than happy to accept the comparisons with Champagne Tony Lima.

Afterall, that’s much better than the comparisons that people have been thinking all week – ones with Jean Van de Velde or Dustin Johnson, men known mostly for their major failures than their triumphs.

There are only 18 holes separating us from the answer to the question so many people want to know. Can a dude named Louis Oosthuizen win an Open Championship at the Old Course?

Getty Images

McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

Getty Images

Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.



Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

"We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."

Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout

Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.