Louis Oosthuizen grew up in Mossel Bay, South Africa playing on a links course in the city in the southernmost cape of the country that featured 94 pot-bunkers and constant wind. St. Andrews, the setting for the British Open, has felt just like home for the 27-year-old. And not surprisingly, the comfort, coupled with his brilliant play off the tee and steadiness everywhere else, translated to a moment he will never forget.
He entered the final round with a four-shot lead over Englishman Paul Casey, and would have to deal with a right to left wind for the front-nine’s entirety. He pushed the conditions to the wayside, striping drive after drive down fairway after fairway. He was unflappable. His mentor is Ernie Els, whom he has emulated his fluid swing after, but his idol is Tiger Woods. He admires Woods' ability to handle the pressure.
And he took after him, possessing the mindset of a champion.
Casey couldn’t put him on his toes early, which, in turn, calmed his nerves. That is, if he had any nerves to calm. Instead of watching Casey put pressure on him, he put pressure on Casey. He did all he could to force his counterpart to keep up with him. He rattled off seven straight pars to begin his round, playing mistake-free and seemingly thinking of this round as if it was just another day on the course.
He made it look easy. He was beyond impressive. And Casey just couldn’t keep up.
Casey bogeyed the second hole, but acquired that stroke right back with a birdie on the sixth. He was right back where he started, with only 14 holes with which to work. There was still time, but any chance he had was soon crushed.
Oosthuizen bogeyed the eighth hole, his first anomaly in 25 holes. He made up for this hiccup in a big way, stroking his drive on the par-four, 352-yard ninth hole hole-high, but 50-feet away from the pin. It was a relatively straight putt despite its distance, and Oosthuizen read it beautifully and rolled it in. A four-shot lead, just as they began. A eagle that all but did in Casey, who managed to birdie.
Casey was soon out of it for good, cooked by his own troubles and Oosthuizen’s amazingly steady play continued. He triple-bogeyed the twelfth hole. Oosthuizen birdied. A four-shot swing. And Louis wouldn’t look back.
As nearly every ESPN announcer said during and after the final round, he was like a surgeon. He picked his spots, hit his targets, and played some of the most composed and efficient golf that the game has ever seen. The wind was nothing to him. The deep bunkers never came into the play. He was in the fairway all week, and when he was in the rough, his flawless swing turned presumed difficulty into pars and birdies.
He didn’t hit a bad shot all day. Shooting over-par and succumbing to the circumstances would spell doom, but he didn’t find himself in any trouble. He nailed drives down the fairway time after time. He did just what he needed to, playing as perfectly as one can given what was at stake.
He missed the cut in his last two European tournaments, including just last week at the Scottish Open. He missed the cut in the seven of his previous eight major championships. He was given 200-1 odds at winning at the start of the tournament. To even afford golf clubs when he was younger, he needed help from the Ernie Els Foundation.
He came out of nowhere to blow away the field, to live a dream he “will cherish for life,” to win the 139th British Open.