NORTON, Mass. – Another Rory-Tiger match-up?
Not so fast.
Louis Oosthuizen torched TPC Boston on Sunday, setting tournament records for low front-nine score (29) and most birdies in a row (seven) en route to a near-flawless 8-under 63 that gave him a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy (67) at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
“Louis put on a display out there for a few holes,” McIlroy said. “It was great to watch. He’s very explosive, and he didn’t really put a foot wrong today.”
Oosthuizen, the former British Open champion, began the third round a stroke behind McIlroy, but birdied the par-5 second and then went on a birdie binge. He began a run of seven consecutive birdies on the fourth hole, moving him to 19 under par for the tournament and, at the time, six shots ahead of McIlroy.
“Probably the start anyone would dream of,” he said afterward.
That run of birdies included three putts from outside 20 feet; the other four were from 7 feet or closer. Oosthuizen cooled off with six consecutive pars, beginning at No. 11, before a sloppy bogey on 17 trimmed his lead to three. He bounced back with a closing birdie on 18, posting a three-round score of 19-under 194, another tournament record.
“You get those days where you look at a putt and hole it,” he said. “That was my front nine.”
A five-time winner on the European Tour, Oosthuizen already has won twice this year overseas, at the Africa Open and Malaysian Open. His lone victory on the PGA Tour was that runaway win in the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews, though he held the 54-hole lead at this year’s Shell Houston Open before faltering in a Sunday 75. A week later, he lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff at the Masters, during which he double-eagled the par-5 second hole in the final round.
One of the purest swingers in the game, Oosthuizen certainly was trending in this direction. He has posted a pair of top-5 finishes in his past three starts on Tour, including a T-5 at last week’s Barclays tournament. The only remaining hole on his resume is that he has yet to win in the U.S.
“The more you put yourself in the position,” he said, “it’s going to happen sooner or later.”
Searching for his fourth victory of the season, Tiger Woods shot a third-round score in the 60s for only the third time in his past 11 starts. But his Sunday 68 still leaves him in a tie for third, six shots behind Oosthuizen.