When Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen buried a 50-footer for eagle on the ninth hole at St. Andrews, he removed the possibility of winning for anyone not playing in the final group. That 80 that the rest of the field needed to have a chance was not gonna happen.
The British Open was going to either Oosthuizen or Paul Casey, who trailed by four strokes entering a back nine that he had played 1-over the previous three days. Oosthuizen won the British Open three holes later, after Casey made a fatal mistake when he needed to play flawless the rest of the way. Casey drove it into the gorse on No. 12, making his second triple-bogey of the championship (he also made two triples at the U.S. Open), and Oosthuizen drove a nail in the coffin with a birdie on the same hole.
From then on, it was just a matter of whether Oosthuizen was motivated enough to break some records. He was 17-under for the championship with six holes to go, two back of Tiger Woods’ British Open record 19-under set in 2000 at the Old Course. As Oosthuizen played the Road Hole, his lead was eight over second-place finisher Lee Westwood, who was already in the clubhouse. If Oosthuizen played the final two holes in even par, he would match Woods’ modern day record for the largest margin of victory at the British Open.
Instead, Oosthuizen practically laid up with his putts on the last two holes, making sure to avoid an 11 on the Road Hole by aiming safely wide of the bunker, and trying not to hit it into the Valley of Sin with his eagle try on the last. Smart, sure. But very boring.
Oosthuizen finished bogey-par, only winning by seven strokes after turning in a ho-hum/dominating/in-total-control final-round 71 on a day where the conditions weren’t particularly harsh, but no one was going to catch him.
It was strange championship that lacked suspense, and I don’t get the feeling that we just watched something historic, but it was pretty damn impressive. Did we just watch the beginning of something more for the 27-year-old South African?
Seven-stroke wins in majors don’t happen by accident. I’ll be very interested to see him play more on the PGA Tour in the coming years.
[AP Photo/Jon Super]