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South African Louis Oosthuizen dominates for British Open victory

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Hardly anyone knew Louis Oosthuizen, much less how to pronounce his name.

Not many will forget the performance the South African delivered at the home of golf to win his first major, the British Open.

Oosthuizen, 27, who had made only one cut in his previous eight majors, led over the final 48 holes and blew away the field at St. Andrews for a victory Sunday that looked as easy as when Tiger Woods first won at this grand course a decade ago.

"To win an Open championship is special," said Oosthuizen (WUHST'-hy-zen). "But to win it at St. Andrews … it's something you dream about."

The timing could not have been better — one week after South Africa concluded a wildly popular World Cup and the day Nelson Mandela celebrated his 92nd birthday.

"It felt a bit special, really," he said. "When I walked down 18, I was thinking about his birthday."

By then, the hard work was done. Oosthuizen made only two bogeys over the final 35 holes in a strong wind that swept across the Old Course. He closed with 1-under 71 for a seven-shot win over Lee Westwood (70).

"Louis has obviously played great and thoroughly deserves to win, so there's not even any real disappointment," Westwood said.

The only challenge came from Paul Casey, who got within three shots after the eighth hole then drove the green on the par-4 ninth. Oosthuizen answered by hitting driver onto the green and knocking in a 50-foot eagle putt to restore his cushion.

Three holes later, Casey hit into a gorse bush and made triple bogey, and Oosthuizen holed an 18-foot birdie putt.

"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."

Oosthuizen spent the final hour soaking up an atmosphere unlike any other in golf with his caddie, Zack Rasego. He finished at 16-under 272.

With the victory, Oosthuizen moved to No. 15 in the world.

"Nobody was going to stop him," said Casey, who shot 75 and tied for third with Rory McIlroy (68) and Henrik Stenson (71). "He didn't miss a shot (Sunday). I don't know if he missed one all week. That was four days of tremendous golf. He didn't flinch (Sunday)."

There was only that gap-tooth smile that earned Oosthuizen 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.

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

"This is absolutely unbelievable," Els said. "I could not be happier. Louis is simply a wonderful kid. You cannot find a better one, and I am so pleased for him."

It was the fifth major for South Africans dating to Retief Goosen winning the U.S. Open in 2001 and the first at the British Open since Els won at Muirfield in 2002, a victory that inspired Oosthuizen.

"Shrek is on the move," Goosen said. "I knew he had a lot of talent. He grew up in an area (Mossel Bay) that's very windy, so for him, these conditions are normal. The guy's got one of the best swings on tour. I think he'll be around for many years to come."

Oosthuizen was relaxed as he could be, putting his arm around Rasego after hitting off the 18th tee and walking over the Swilcan Bridge.

"Winning at St. Andrews, it's unbelievable," Rasego said. "He deserves what he's just done."

The biggest smile from Oosthuizen came on the 18th green, with a hug for Rasego and an embrace with wife Nel-Mare and 7-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."

And he let his family know how he felt during his acceptance speech: "Without you, it wouldn't be worth it."

British Open leaderboard

1. Louis Oosthuizen 65-67-69-71 272 -16

2. Lee Westwood 67-71-71-70 279 -9

T3. Rory McIlroy 63-80-69-68 280 -8

T3. Henrik Stenson 68-74-67-71 280 -8

T3. Paul Casey 69-69-67-75 280 -8

6. Retief Goosen 69-70-72-70 281 -7

Notables

T23. Tiger Woods 67-73-73-72 285 -3

T37. Vijay Singh 68-73-76-70 287 -1

T48. Stewart Cink 70-74-71-74 289 +1

T48. Phil Mickelson 73-71-70-75 289 +1

Meet Louis Oosthuizen

Full name: Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen (WUHST'-hy-zen)

Age: 27

Hometown: Mossel Bay, South Africa

Family: Wife, Nel-Mare; 7-month-old daughter, Jana

Turned pro: 2004

Tours: European Tour, Sunshine Tour (Southern Africa)

Victories: 2010 British Open; 2010 Open de Andalucia de Golf; 2008 Telkom PGA Championship; 2007 Platinum Classic; 2007 Telkom PGA Championship; 2007 Dimension-Data Pro-Am

Mentor: Ernie Els, a fellow South African

Notable from British Open: Became the first player since Tony Lema in 1964 to win his first major at St. Andrews. … Bounced back from his first bogey of the final round to make a 50-foot eagle putt at No. 9, restoring a four-shot lead over Paul Casey. … Had only six bogeys for the tournament.

Times wires

Fast facts

South African haul

Louis Oosthuizen became the fourth South African to win the British Open, golf's oldest championship.

Bobby Locke 4 (1949, 1950, 1952, 1957)

Gary Player3(1959, 1968, 1974)

Ernie Els1 (2002)

Louis Oosthuizen1(2010)

South African Louis Oosthuizen dominates for British Open victory 07/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 12:19am]

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