Oosthuizen earns first major with dominant performance

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2010, 12:57 am

135th Open Championship

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – They will say an ogre won an ugly Open Championship, but that woefully misses the point and wildly underestimates the performance.

This wasn’t the wrong ending, or the wrong player. This was not Stewart Cink, who gutted the crowds and the history books last year at Turnberry, or Paul Lawrie, who did an end-around at Carnoustie in 1999.

This was a masterpiece masked by unfamiliarity at a place as familiar as the claret jug itself. Not even the dulcet tones of Ivor Robson, the venerable first-tee announcer with his signature sing-song cadence, could harmonize Louis Oosthuizen’s name. But then this tour de force needed no window dressing.

For four windswept days the South African was machine-like, clinical, cutthroat, even, not that it’s possible to dismiss the man with the toothy grin as anything even approaching a villain. The man his friends affectionately call Shrek was every bit the loveable antagonist.

If St. Andrews is not big on dog winners – what with a list of past champions that includes the likes of Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Bobby Jones – then consider Oosthuizen an aberration, or a prologue. If Oosthuizen isn’t exactly Hall of Fame stuff just yet, his play certainly was.

For the week Oosthuizen was third in putting average (1.676), 12th in greens in regulation (83 percent) and first in driving accuracy (87 percent), a filthy statistic considering the demanding conditions, and posted four sub-par rounds (65-67-69-71) for a 16-under 272 total.

In short, the performance was marquee in every measure save for name.

“That was a frustrating day. I played pretty solidly most of the day and got some bad breaks,” said Paul Casey, who began the final round four strokes back and finished eight adrift. “Having said that even if you take away my mistakes it was never going to be enough to get near Louis. He played in a different league.”

Oosthuizen (pronounced WUHST’-hy-zen) hit fairways, greens and not a single rushed shot. We’ve seen this schtick before when it was called Retief Goosen, the original Grand Slam flat-liner.

Louis Oostheizen
Oosthuizen ran away with the Open Championship finishing at 16-under 272. (Getty Images)

What Oosthuizen lacks in Q rating he more than made up for with quality.

“He’s a proper player, isn’t he?” said Chubby Chandler, Oosthuizen’s manger with International Sports Management. “He’s unbelievably calm. Lee (Westwood) gets calm, but this is something else.”

When Woods won here in 2000 by eight shots he didn’t hit into one of the Old Course’s menacing pot bunkers. Oosthuizen was only one off that pace, lapping the field by seven shots without finding a single bunker.

“To play St. Andrews and not hit in one fairway bunker is unbelievable,” said Zack Rasego, Oosthuizen’s caddie of seven years. “That’s a key for here.”

Many figured Sunday’s action to be a two-man race. That was overly optimistic, which worked out well for the Royal & Ancient engraver who may have ran out of his allotment of vowels etching Oosthuizen’s name onto the claret jug.

After trading pars with Oosthuizen through five holes, a zero-sum game considering the South African’s 54-hole cushion, Casey rolled in a 4 footer at the sixth for birdie and closed to within three strokes after the front-runner bogeyed the eighth, his first misstep in 24 holes.

Oosthuizen answered with a 40-footer for eagle at the ninth and the match went virtually dormie at the 12th hole when Casey’s tee shot sailed into a gorse bush and Oosthuizen made birdie – an 8-and-6 walkover that made the inward loop a formality. Not that the 27-year-old whose real name, Lodewicus Theodorus for those looking to buy a vowel, is an announcer’s nightmare had any interest in premature celebrations.

Even with a touchdown cushion and major championship golf’s most-welcoming closer, it wasn’t until Oosthuizen hit his tee shot onto the green at the last that he exhaled.

“When my tee shot was done at 18 that was it. I definitely wasn’t going to 10-putt,” smiled Oosthuizen, who followed Tony Lema’s lead, the last little-known St. Andrews Open champion, and treated the media to a champagne celebration after his victory.

There had been little to suggest there was such a performance stirring within Oosthuizen. He’d missed the cut in three previous Open Championships and had not made it to the weekend in seven of the eight majors he’s played.

But his victory earlier this year on the European Tour was an espresso shot to his confidence, his swing was smooth and flawless when he arrived at St. Andrews and with a lifetime of playing golf in the wind near Cape Town the cosmic tumblers were long ago set in motion, even if the rest of us had turned a blind eye.

Even more impressive than his ball-striking clinic was the way in which Oosthuizen handled, or was it dismissed, the pressures of major championship golf. Before he teed off for the final round Oosthuizen told Chandler he was “bored” and Rasego said he never sensed even a hint of nervousness.

“This was the moment in time when he had to enjoy himself because it’s either now or never,” Rasego said.

A bogey at 17 and par at 18 only softened the blow for a shell-shocked field. If the overnights suffered from Oosthuizen’s stunner, there was some solace to be had in a performance that was at least Tiger-like.

Not that Woods himself had much to show for his week along the Firth of Forth.

Woods’ tie for 23rd place fell five strokes shy of the third leg of the T-4 slam, following identical finishes at Augusta National and Pebble Beach, and was more the byproduct of poor putting, or pace, depending on who one asks, than substandard ball-striking.

He was 38th in putting average, 52nd in greens in regulation and 37th in driving accuracy. Not quite 2000, or 2005 for that matter.

For weeks Woods has said he is close, but late one night in front of the famed Dunvegan, the quintessential St. Andrews pub, one of the frat brothers gave the most ringing endorsement of the world No. 1’s status.

“He’s this close to Tiger 2000,” said one major champion holding his thumb and forefinger inches apart. “When he gets it, we’re all screwed.”

As for those who say Woods’ 0-for-3 start to a Grand Slam season that pre-Nov. 27 looked like low-hanging fruit is a harbinger of slumps to come, consider that at 34 years old Jack Nicklaus had won just 12 of his 18 majors while Woods already has 14 Grand Slam bottle caps.

Following his final-round Woods was asked what he would remember of his fourth Open Championship at St. Andrews?

“I didn’t win, just like ’95,” he said flatly.

So much for the Grand Slam tap-in, but it’s good to know second still sucks.

By contrast, Phil Mickelson teed off with little or no expectations on Thursday with 13 clubs in the bag, adding to the litany of curious club combos the left-hander has marched onto the pitch with, but it did little to help his links resume.

A last-minute check to be sure his new putter conformed to the Rules of Golf forced Lefty to head down the first fairway with only 13 clubs. By the time he reached the first green officials had already returned it to him, and by the time Mickelson finished the week tied for 48th he should have been more concerned with his iron play having finished 73rd, last among those who made the cut, in greens in regulation.

Such was life at the strangest of Opens, a championship that began under a pall when Seve Ballesteros withdrew from the much-anticipated Champion’s Challenge and only became darker and more foreboding as the week progressed.

Weather forced the cancellation of the four-hole Champion’s Challenge and then, inexplicably, stopped play for an hour on Friday as officials waited for the winds to abate, or the grass to grow. Neither happened and the first weather suspension at the Open Championship since 1998 was largely panned by players and pundits as a waste of time.

“If you went to every green and said where’s the worst place we can put these pins, they did it on 18 greens,” Oliver Wilson said after missing the cut and playing through the worst of Friday’s gale. “Whoever set those pins should be fired.”

Not that the 150th anniversary was an entirely maudlin affair. John Daly resurrected ghosts of his 1995 victory at St. Andrews, if not his career, with a first-round 66 that put him three shots behind Rory McIlroy, who opened with 63 to momentarily steal the spotlight from Oosthuizen. And Tom Watson crossed the Swilken Bridge for the last time in an Open Championship late Friday.

But by the time the winds calmed and the stars flickered out, there was only Oosthuizen, whose nickname Shrek seemed a perfect metaphor for the mysterious new champion golfer who freely admits to bouts of anger and a lack of focus at times on the golf course.

“It's the gap in the teeth. My friends say I look like Shrek, some of my friends, and you can't choose your friends, so what can I say?” Oosthuizen said.

And, contrary to 137 years of history, the Old Course can’t pick its champions. But then who is to say Oosthuizen is not worthy after 72 flawless holes in fierce conditions?

For Open Championship week Chandler rented out the Jigger Inn, the storied pub next to the Old Course Hotel that overlooks the 17th fairway. Early Sunday he leaned in to whisper the password for entry to an acquaintance, “Tomorrow.” Or maybe he was just looking forward to Oosthuizen’s instantly-bright future.

Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.

Good time to hang up on viewer call-ins

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 7:40 pm

Golf announced the most massive layoff in the industry’s history on Monday morning.

Armchair referees around the world were given their pink slips.

It’s a glorious jettisoning of unsolicited help.

Goodbye and good riddance.

The USGA and R&A’s announcement of a new set of protocols Monday will end the practice of viewer call-ins and emails in the reporting of rules infractions.

“What we have heard from players and committees is ‘Let’s leave the rules and administration of the event to the players and those responsible for running the tournament,’” said Thomas Pagel, the USGA’s senior director of rules and amateur status.

Amen.

The protocols, formed by a working group that included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and the PGA of America, also establish the use of rules officials to monitor the televised broadcasts of events.

Additionally, the protocols will eliminate the two-shot penalty when a player signs an incorrect scorecard because the player was unaware of a violation.



Yes, I can hear you folks saying armchair rules officials help make sure every meaningful infraction comes to light. I hear you saying they make the game better, more honest, by helping reduce the possibility somebody violates the rules to win.

But at what cost?

The chaos and mayhem armchair referees create can ruin the spirit of fair play every bit as much as an unreported violation. The chaos and mayhem armchair rules officials create can be as much a threat to fair play as the violations themselves.

The Rules of Golf are devised to protect the integrity of the game, but perfectly good rules can be undermined by the manner and timeliness of their enforcement.

We have seen the intervention of armchair referees go beyond the ruin of fair play in how a tournament should be conducted. We have seen it threaten the credibility of the game in the eyes of fans who can’t fathom the stupidity of a sport that cannot separate common-sense enforcement from absolute devotion to the letter of the law.

In other sports, video review’s timely use helps officials get it right. In golf, video review too often makes it feel like the sport is getting it wrong, because timeliness matters in the spirit of fair play, because the retroactive nature of some punishments are as egregious as the violations themselves.  

We saw that with Lexi Thompson at the ANA Inspiration this year.

Yes, she deserved a two-shot penalty for improperly marking her ball, but she didn’t deserve the two-shot penalty for signing an incorrect scorecard. She had no idea she was signing an incorrect scorecard.

We nearly saw the ruin of the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year, with Dustin Johnson’s victory clouded by the timing of a video review that left us all uncertain if the tournament was playing out under an incorrect scoreboard.

“What these protocols are put in place for, really, is to make sure there are measures to identify the facts as soon as possible, in real time, so if there is an issue to be dealt with, that it can be handled quickly and decisively,” Pagel said.

Amen again.

We have pounded the USGA for making the game more complicated and less enjoyable than it ought to be, for creating controversy where common sense should prevail, so let’s applaud executive director Mike Davis, as well as the R&A, for putting common sense in play.

Yes, this isn’t a perfect answer to handling rules violations.

There are trap doors in the protocols that we are bound to see the game stumble into, because the game is so complex, but this is more than a good faith effort to make the game better.

This is good governance.

And compared to the glacial pace of major rules change of the past, this is swift.

This is the USGA and R&A leading a charge.

We’re seeing that with the radical modernization of the Rules of Golf scheduled to take effect in 2019. We saw it with the release of Decision 34/3-10 three weeks after Thompson’s loss at the ANA, with the decision limiting video review to “reasonable judgment” and “naked eye” standards. We’re hearing it with Davis’ recent comments about the “horrible” impact distance is having on the game, leading us to wonder if the USGA is in some way gearing up to take on the golf ball.

Yes, the new video review protocols aren’t a panacea. Rules officials will still miss violations that should have been caught. There will be questions about level playing fields, about the fairness of stars getting more video review scrutiny than the rank and file. There will be questions about whether viewer complaints were relayed to rules officials.

Golf, they say, isn’t a game of perfect, and neither is rules enforcement, though these protocols make too much sense to be pilloried. They should be applauded. They should solve a lot more problems than they create.

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”