Oosthuizen claims maiden European Tour title


2009 European Tour

MALAGA, Spain – Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa earned his first European Tour title after shooting a 3-under 67 Sunday in the final round of the Andalucia Open to protect his overnight lead and win by three strokes.

The 27-year-old Oosthuizen finished with a 17-under total of 263. The win secures him a place in the top 50 in the world rankings and a place at next month’s Masters at Augusta.

Peter Whiteford of Scotland (66) and Richard Finch of England (67) were tied for second.

In eight seasons on the European Tour, Oosthuizen had previously finished second on four occasions, most recently at last weekend’s Hassan 11 Trophy in Morocco after having led into the final round only to be outplayed by a brilliant 66 from Rhys Davies.

However, from the moment he opened his fourth round in Spain with a successful 22-foot birdie putt on the first green, there appeared to be no threat of him being overtaken again.

“That was a good way to start,” said Oosthuizen, who opened up a four-shot lead with birdies at the No. 4 and No. 5 holes.

“But it was a stupid three putt from close range on the 7th green that really got me focused,” he said. “I was looking at leaderboards all the way round and, going down the 18th with a three-shot lead, I felt comfortable.”

Since his schooldays in Mossel Bay on the South African coast, Oosthuizen’s career has benefited from help given to him by The Ernie Els foundation.

“I would not be the golfer I am today without all the help I have received from Ernie,” Oosthuizen said.

Whiteford’s $120,000 runners-up check was more than his earnings throughout 2008, when he last appeared as a full member of the European Tour and played 30 tournaments before losing his card.

Of the four leading players going into the final round, Finch was the only one to have previously won in Europe with victories at the Irish and New Zealand Opens in 2008.

Defending champion Soren Kjeldsen holed five birdies in a 68. However, he had lost too much ground on the leaders in rounds two and three and finished in a share of sixth place at 11 under.