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?

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Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

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Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

Masters victory

Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

Man of the people

Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

Departure from TaylorMade

Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

Victory at Valderrama

Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm