Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. All names of South African golfing greats. All names of South Africa-born Major championship winners. All names synonymous with the history of golf. And now, following the culmination of the 150th anniversary of the Open, we have a new name to add to that list: Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen. Okay, so maybe his name is arguably too awkward for any type of list (hence the shortened ‘Louis’) but no doubt remains over the question of whether Oosthuizen belongs alongside such illustrious names.
The 27 year-old passed with ease all of the challenges it takes to become Open champion. He found fairways with almost unparalleled accuracy, pierced iron shots into the hearts of St. Andrews’ gargantuan greens and appeared nerveless with the putter coming down the stretch. It was a performance so dominating, so reminiscent of Woods in 2000, that made for one of the most boring and uneventful final days play of any Major championship in recent years.
All the ingredients for a scintillating final day were there: the last round of the biggest and best golf tournament there is, at the home of golf where it all began, a pack of home-grown talent eagerly chasing their first major victory, spurred on by the achievement of Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell last month and his win at the U.S. Open. The week started in the best possible fashion. Young Northern Ireland sensation Rory McIlroy equalled the lowest round ever recorded at a Major with a 63 on the first day. Tiger Woods was hovering around the lead as he bid to become to first player ever to win three Open championships at St. Andrews. Even little known English talent Stephen Tilley was getting in on the action following an opening 66 in his first ever Open. Home interest continued through the weekend with Paul Casey firing three consecutive rounds in the sixties to assure his place in the final group on Sunday, and Lee Westwood lurking near the lead yet again in a Major, waiting for his first triumph. But Sunday, and indeed the whole championship, belonged, rather uneventfully, to the quiet South African.
The lack of advance from the chasing pack made Oosthuizen’s passage into golfing history serene. The forty miles-per-hour winds that ripped through the Old Course on Friday and caused a suspension of play put an end to many of the promising starts. McIlroy followed up his 63 with an 80 and crowd favourite John Daly slumped to a 76. Luck, as ever, played a huge part in the Open, as Oosthuizen was able to enjoy the torment his fellow competitors endured from the sanctity of the clubhouse; he had finished his round early and responded to a seven under par 65 with a 67 amid only drizzle and a slight zephyr. Luck was not even a factor on the final day however. His performance was a lesson in ball striking, how to control emotions, and how to win. His achievement will be marred though by the lack of what we have come to expect from the last round of a Major. Gone were the barrages of birdies, the cheers lighting up the atmosphere, echoing through the old town walls of St. Andrews. In were the sounds of drones to missed putts, and wistfully hopeful calls of encouragement to the likes of Casey and Westwood. Even John Daly’s trousers appeared mundane. The usually unbearable commentary of Peter Alliss actually became an entertaining backdrop, as the commentary team scraped longingly for something to get excited about, for any advance materialised into little more than the odd birdie. The lowest rounds of the day came from Alvaro Quiros and Ricky Fowler, whose 67s were good enough for a tied eleventh and fourteenth position, eleven and twelve shots respectively behind the winner – nowhere near close enough to mount a significant threat.
And so a week that started with much promise and excitement turned into a victory parade that in earnest started as early as Saturday afternoon for Oosthuizen. The first-class display of golf is not in question, but surely the right of the Open to have been given so much coverage on that final day surely is. For no matter what Oosthuizen achieved, the 150th anniversary of the Open will be remembered by those who attended, and the millions who watched around the world, as one of the dullest, and most uneventful final days in the history of Major championship golf.