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Louis Oosthuizen still ahead at British Open; Tiger Woods fades away

British Open leaderboard

1. Louis Oosthuizen65-67-69-15

2. Paul Casey69-69-67-11

3. Martin Kaymer69-71-68-8

T4. Henrik Stenson68-74-67-7

T4. Alejandro Canizares67-71-71-7

T4. Lee Westwood67-71-71-7

Notables

T8. Retief Goosen 69-70-72 -5

T12. Sergio Garcia 71-71-70 -4

T18. Tiger Woods 67-73-73 -3

T26. Phil Mickelson 73-71-70 -2

Today

Round 4 at St. Andrews (Old Course), 7,305 yards, par 72; TV: ESPN, 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Louis Oosthuizen still remembers getting together with other kids from the Ernie Els Foundation to watch highlights of their hero winning the British Open at Muirfield in 2002.

The shot out of a pot bunker on the 13th. His birdie on No. 17 to tie for the lead. The bunker shot on No. 18 to win the longest sudden-death playoff in a British Open.

"We were actually getting goose bumps," Oosthuizen said. "Just seeing that … you're always thinking, 'I hope that happens to me.' "

Hard as it is to imagine — even to the 27-year-old South African — it just might.

After opening with a three-putt bogey, Oosthuizen played with remarkable poise on another windswept afternoon at St. Andrews. He never dropped another shot, never stopped smiling and finished with a drive onto the 18th green for one last birdie to cap a round of 3-under 69.

It gave him a four-shot lead over Paul Casey and put him one round away from becoming the first player in 46 years to capture his first major championship at the home of golf.

This, from a player who had only made it to the weekend one time in eight previous majors.

"I don't think anyone was thinking I was going to be up there," Oosthuizen said. "You've heard yourself, no one can actually say my surname, so they don't even know who I am out there. It's great being up there."

Oosthuizen (WUHST-hy-zen) was at 15-under 201. A victory would make him the first player since Tony Lema in 1964 to win his first major at St. Andrews.

Fellow South African Gary Player left a message at his hotel. Els called Saturday morning for support. Eight years after leaving the Els foundation, Oosthuizen still follows his instructions.

On No. 17, his approach with a 5-iron ran through the green and onto the 18th tee, just as Casey was preparing to hit his tee shot.

Casey smiled. Lee Westwood walked over to the ball and acted as if he were going to smash the ball back at Oosthuizen.

The way he's playing, even that might not have stopped him.

"I'm loving the fact I'm playing absolutely great golf and I'm four shots behind Louis," Casey said.

Casey, giving England a chance at having a British Open champion for the first time since Nick Faldo in 1992, went out in 31 when the wind was at its strongest and mostly into his face.

He finished off a bogey-free round of 67 that puts him in the final group of a major for the first time at 11-under 205.

Oosthuizen was seven shots clear of Germany's Martin Kaymer (68), who was alone in third. Another shot behind — eight out of the lead — were Henrik Stenson (67), Alejandro Canizares (71) and Westwood (71).

Tiger Woods, who won the past two times at St. Andrews by a combined 13 shots, has not been within four shots of the lead all week and wasn't close Saturday.

Woods (73) goes into today's final round 12 shots behind, sure to match his longest start to the season without a victory in his seventh tournament.

"I'm playing better than my position," said Woods, tied for 18th. "I certainly have had a lot more putts on the greens than I ever have, and that's something that has basically kept me out of being in the final few groups."

The South African heritage at golf's oldest championship dates to Bobby Locke winning four times in a nine-year stretch after World War II. Player won the claret jug three times, and Els was the most recent in 2002.

Oosthuizen, whose career was made possible by the Ernie Els Foundation at Fancourt, had to wait 28 hours from his last putt Friday to his opening shot Saturday.

"It felt like a week and a half," he said.

He promptly three-putted for bogey as his lead shrunk to two shots. It was his only bogey.

Casey had three birdies in a four-hole stretch early and got as close as one shot back with a two-putt birdie on the ninth. But he missed a 5-foot birdie on No. 18.

"I'm having a great time, and I'm going to go out there (today) and enjoy myself and have a good attitude," Casey said. "I know what this golf course can do. It can give you some great moments, and it can give you some horrible ones."

"Strange things have been happening this week," Westwood said. "It can be done — we know that. It depends on the weather. If it's a miserable, windy day, anything can happen. But Louis and Paul look like they are playing well."

Louis Oosthuizen still ahead at British Open; Tiger Woods fades away 07/17/10 [Last modified: Saturday, July 17, 2010 10:29pm]
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