Oosthuizen wins Open in dominating fashion

By Doug FergusonJuly 18, 2010, 11:33 pm

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ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Hardly anyone knew Louis Oosthuizen, much less how to pronounce his name. Not many will forget the performance he delivered at the home of golf to capture the British Open on Sunday.

A week after the World Cup ended, South Africa had more reason to celebrate, this from a most unlikely source. Oosthuizen, a 27-year-old who had only made one cut in his previous eight majors, blew away the field at St. Andrews for a victory that looked as easy as when Tiger Woods first won here a decade ago.

Oosthuizen made only two bogeys over the final 35 holes in a strong wind that swept across the Old Course. He led over the final 48 holes and closed with a 1-under 71 for a seven-shot victory over Lee Westwood of England.

Oosthuizen could not think of a more special venue to capture his first major. He just had no idea it would be this easy.

He never let anyone get within three shots of him in the final round, and he answered that brief challenge from Paul Casey by knocking in a 50-foot eagle putt on the par-4 ninth green to restore his cushion. Casey’s hopes ended with a triple bogey into the gorse three holes later, and Oosthuizen spent the final hour soaking up an atmosphere unlike any other in golf.

“That eagle on nine, that got me started,” Oosthuizen said. “It was a big change on 12 when Paul made triple and I made birdie. All of a sudden, it was mine to throw away.”

He finished at 16-under 272 and became the first player since Tony Lema in 1964 to win his first major at St. Andrews. With the fifth victory of his career, Oosthuizen moved to No. 15 in the world. And as a sign just how global golf has become, it’s the second time this decade that the four major championship trophies reside on four continents.

“Nobody was going to stop him,” said Casey, whose adventures in the gorse sent him to a 75 and a tie for third with Rory McIlroy (68) and Henrik Stenson (71). “He didn’t miss a shot today. I don’t know if he missed one all week. That was four days of tremendous golf. He didn’t flinch today.”

No, there was only that gap-tooth smile that earned him the nickname “Shrek” from his friends. And there was amazement across his face when he cradled the oldest trophy in golf, a silver claret jug with his name etched alongside Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, and the other South African winners –  Gary Player, Bobby Locke and Ernie Els, his mentor.

Louis Oostheizen
Oosthuizen cruised to a seven-shot victory at the Open Championship. (Getty Images)

Without the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation in South Africa, Oosthuizen, the son of a farmer, could not have afforded the travel required to reach the game’s highest level.

Some 45 miles (70 kilometers) away, Player was returning from a golf outing and listening to every shot on the radio, proud as can be. He saw the potential during a practice round they played at the Masters this year.

Player called Oosthuizen on Sunday morning and gave him a pep talk.

“I told him he’s got to realize that lots of people are hitting bad shots,” Player said, not know how few of those the kid would hit. “And I told them the crowd was naturally going to show a bias. But I reminded him when I played Arnold Palmer in 1961 at the Masters, only my wife and my dog was pulling for me. I told him he’s got to get in there and be more determined to win.”

Oosthuizen was relaxed as could be, putting his arm around caddie Zack Rasego after hitting off the 18th tee and walking over the Swilcan Bridge, thousands of fans packed into the grandstands, along the road and peering out the shop windows.

The timing could not have been better for a South African to claim a major –  that’s five majors for the Springboks since 2001. Not only is the country still buzzing, Sunday was the 92nd birthday of Nelson Mandela.

“It’s a proud moment for us, especially with the Old Man, winning on his birthday,” Rosega said. “Winning at St. Andrews, it’s unbelievable. He deserves what he’s just done.”

The 150th anniversary of golf’s oldest championship was memorable in so many ways.

It began with Rory McIlroy tying the major championship record with a 63 in some of the calmest conditions at the Old Course. It ended with someone other than Woods hoisting the claret jug in front of the Royal and Ancient clubhouse.

Woods tapped in on the final hole and removed his cap to salute the gallery, just as he did the last two Opens at St. Andrews. Only this time, the tournament was still two hours from finishing. Woods made two double bogeys on his way to a 72 and tied for 23rd.

It was his seventh tournament of the year without a victory, matching the longest drought of his career.

“I’m not going to win all of them,” Woods said after his worst 72-hole finish in a major in six years. “I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won.”

No way he was going to win this one. Neither was anyone else.

Oosthuizen might have been nervous, but it didn’t show. Charl Schwartzel, his best friend from their junior golf days in South Africa, ran into him on Saturday and said Oosthuizen was showing him comedy videos on his phone.

“This was about an hour before he teed off,” Schwartzel said.

If anyone showed nerves, it was Casey. With the warm applause from a British gallery that had not seen one of its own holding a claret jug in 11 years, he hit wedge to 4 feet below the hole at No. 1 to send a message. The birdie putt caught the right lip, however, and it took until the sixth hole before Casey could make a birdie.

He wasn’t alone. Of the final 10 players to tee off, only Retief Goosen made a birdie on any of the opening five holes.

Oosthuizen plodded along with pars.

“He’s doing all the things he needs to do,” said Woods, who has more experience than anyone playing from ahead in a major. “He’s being consistent, putting all the pressure on Paul to come get him. He doesn’t need to go out there and shoot a low round today.”

Oosthuizen went 24 consecutive holes without a bogey until his streak ended on the par-3 eighth hole by missing a 6-foot par putt. That trimmed his lead to three, and Casey hit driver onto the par-4 ninth green.

Whatever momentum he had didn’t last long. Oosthuizen also drove the ninth green and holed his 50-foot eagle putt to restore the lead to four shots, same as when he started. And this Open effectively ended three holes later.

Casey drove into the gorse bushes left of the 12th, took a drop back toward the seventh fairway, came up short of the green and wound up making a triple bogey, dropping him eight shots behind.

Oosthuizen spent the final hour with a big grin on his face, although he started out that way, too.

The biggest smile came on the 18th green, with a hug for Rasego, and an embrace with wife Nel-Mare and seven-month-old daughter Jana. It will be years before the child can appreciate the magnitude of this moment.

“I will say, ‘That’s the day Daddy makes us the proudest,”’ his wife said. “And we’ll never forget it.”

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Country singer Owen shoots 86 in Web.com debut

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:51 pm

Country music star Jake Owen struggled in his Web.com Tour debut, shooting a 14-over 86 in the opening round of the Nashville Golf Open.

Owen, who played as a 1 handicap earlier this year while teaming with Jordan Spieth at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, put three balls out of bounds over his first nine holes, including two en route to a quadruple-bogey 9 on the par-5 18th hole. After making the turn in 46, Owen came home in 40 without making a single birdie.

Owen is playing as an amateur on an unrestricted sponsor exemption, the same type used by NBA superstar Steph Curry on the Web.com Tour last year and by former NFL quarterback Tony Romo this year on the PGA Tour. Curry missed the cut after rounds of 74-74 at the Ellie Mae Classic, while Romo shot 77-82 at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship.


Full-field scores from the Nashville Golf Open


Owen tallied nine pars, six bogeys, two doubles and a quad in his opener and was the only player from the morning wave who failed to break 80. The closest player to him in the standings was two-time major champ Angel Cabrera, who opened with a 79.

While Owen struggled against a field full of professionals, he took the setback in stride and even took to Twitter in the middle of his round to fire back at some of his online critics:

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New putter propels Hoffman to Fort Worth lead

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 7:30 pm

After sitting at home last week, Charley Hoffman decided it was time for a change.

The veteran estimated that he has been using the same version of a Scotty Cameron putter for the last five years, but heading into this week's Fort Worth Invitational he wanted to shake things up.

"I had an idea on Sunday literally coming out here that I wanted to have a little more weight in my putter," Hoffman told reporters. "I went with one that was sort of in my bag of putters at home that I could add some weight here."

The swap provided immediate results, as Hoffman opened with a 7-under 63 while picking up more than two strokes over the field on the greens to take a one-shot lead over Emiliano Grillo, Jhonattan Vegas and Andrew Putnam. It was an all-around effort Thursday for Hoffman, as he missed only two greens in regulation and never faced a par putt longer than 5 feet.

"I was able to knock in some mid-range putts and played very solid," Hoffman said. "It was a nice, very stress-free round. It was fun to play."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Hoffman had one of the best seasons of his career in 2017, capping it with a Presidents Cup appearance and a runner-up finish at the Hero World Challenge in December. While he has made nine cuts in 12 starts this year, his T-12 finish at the Masters remains his best result as he has struggled to turn top-20s into opportunities to contend.

Hoffman is making his seventh straight appearance at Colonial, where he tied for 10th in 2015. But he had never shot better than 65 before Thursday, when his decision to switch to a heavier Scotty Cameron model seemingly put a magnet on the bottom of the cup.

"Putting is a fickle part of the game," he said. "So hopefully the good mojo continues."

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McIlroy shoots 67, two off BMW PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 24, 2018, 6:56 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England – Rory McIlroy walked off the 18th green in disgruntled fashion, shaking his head and looking down at the ground.

Shooting a 5-under 67 at Wentworth can rarely have felt so unsatisfactory.

The four-time major winner pushed his approach shot from the middle of the fairway into the overhanging trees at the par-5 last, saw his chip clip the flag pole, then missed a 3-foot putt for birdie for a disappointing end to his first round at the BMW PGA Championship on Thursday.

McIlroy also missed out on a birdie on the par-5 17th, too. Hence his unhappiness immediately after his round, although he was only two shots off the lead held by Lucas Bjerregaard (65).


Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship


''Walking off the 16th green and going to No. 17 at 5 under par, it was good after being 1 over after three (holes),'' McIlroy said, before diverting away from revisiting the end of his round.

''I played really well, gave myself plenty of chances, drove it well, for the most part hit my irons a lot better than I have done, so it was nice to get off to a good start.''

McIlroy is playing the European Tour's flagship event for the first time since 2015. He won it in 2014, the year he won The Open and the PGA Championship – his most recent major victories.

After bogeying No. 3, the former top-ranked McIlroy reeled off seven birdies in 13 holes and later said the greens were in the best condition he'd seen them.

Bjerregaard, whose only win came in Portugal last year, made seven birdies in a bogey-free round – his last at No. 18 giving him the outright lead over South Africans Dean Burmester and Darren Fichardt.

Burmester earlier played his last eight holes in 6 under par – including making eagle at the 15th – to draw level with compatriot Fichardt, who was also bogey-free.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat finished 7-6 on the two par 5s to drop from the outright lead at the time to 4 under.

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Stricker opens with 65 at Colonial despite back pain

By Will GrayMay 24, 2018, 6:45 pm

After four holes of the Fort Worth Invitational, things were looking bleak for Steve Stricker.

The ageless veteran was already 1 over when he tweaked his back playing his approach to No. 13, his fourth hole of the day at Colonial Country Club. He ended up making another bogey, but at that point his score took a backseat to the health of his ailing back.

"I tried to hit a pretty solid 6-iron and got right into the impact area, and actually felt my lower back crack right where I had surgery back in 2014, pretty much right on the spot," Stricker told reporters. "Tried to walk to the green and that wasn't going so well. Kind of tightened up on me. I thought I was going to have to stop and just stand there for a minute, which I did a couple of times. It didn't look or feel very good for a while."

Slowly but surely, Stricker's back began to loosen up, and with it came a turnaround on the scorecard. Stricker had a four-hole stretch in the middle of his round that he played in 5 under, highlighted by a hole-out from the greenside bunker for eagle on the par-5 first hole. Despite the rocky start, he ended up shooting a 5-under 65 to sit two shots off the early pace set by Charley Hoffman.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"I just kept plodding along," Stricker said. "I knew there were some birdie holes out here if you can get it in the fairway. There are some short irons."

Stricker had a spot in one of the marquee early-round groups, but his score bettered both Jordan Spieth's 1-under 69 and defending champ Kevin Kisner's 2-over 72. Stricker told reporters that he planned to get his back checked after the round.

Stricker continues to straddle both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions while crafting a unique schedule, and his appearance this week in Fort Worth came at the expense of skipping the Senior PGA Championnship, a major on the over-50 circuit. But Stricker won at Colonial in 2009 and has now played four straight years on what he described as one of his favorite courses.

"I like to play here. I know I'm going to play John Deere, another favorite tournament of mine, and FedEx St. Jude looks like I am going to try to play in a couple weeks, try to get in the U.S. Open," Stricker said. "So it's just kind of picking them as I go, and seeing where I want to go and seeing what feels good to me at the time."