Salem Radio Network News Thursday, August 5, 2021

Sports

Column: Oosthuizen hard to pronounce and hard to finish

For a long time, the hardest thing about being a Louis Oosthuizen fan was figuring out how to pronounce his last name.

Now it’s figuring out what’s going on inside his mind.

Two major championships seemingly his for the asking in the space of a month. Two final rounds that left a lot of fans shaking their heads.

He gave one away on the coast of California with a drive into the canyon at the U.S. Open that no one expected. Then he let Collin Morikawa zoom past him on the front nine in the British Open, an outcome that seemed almost inevitable from the time the final pairing teed off Sunday on the coast of England.

Oh, yeah, he also finished second to Phil Mickelson two months ago in the PGA Championship, another major that was there for the taking.

What’s it take for a guy to win a major anyway? Oosthuizen surely wants to know, as the memory of his British Open win in 2010 fades further into the past.

He managed to get away from Royal St. George’s without letting anyone else know. While Morikawa was accepting the claret jug, Oosthuizen left without talking about his latest Sunday failure, a puzzling decision because he has always been a thoughtful interview.

The day before, he hinted at his strategy for taking a lead into the final round. Turns out it was just to play golf, something that didn’t work out too well in the two majors that preceded the last one of the year.

“I think all of us are just human to think of lifting the trophy, and that’s going to be in your mind,” Oosthuizen said. “But I think you just need to know it and how to handle it.”

His latest near miss wasn’t exactly a meltdown, so Oosthuizen can be thankful for that. It wasn’t like last month when he was leading the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines before hitting his tee shot into a canyon on the 17th hole as Jon Rahm was making birdie putts on the last two holes.

But on a day when birdies were plentiful — Morikawa and the two guys right behind him on the leaderboard each shot 66 — Oosthuizen couldn’t summon the kind of golf he has played in the first three rounds of the last three majors.

He had not made a bogey on the front nine at Royal St. George’s until Sunday. He lost the lead to a Morikawa birdie while trying to find his way out of bunkers on the par-5 seventh hole and never came close to the lead again despite playing 1 under the rest of the way.

“The seventh hole was definitely the turning point,” said Morikawa, who at the age of 24 already has two major championship wins. “I’m not sure what happened with his first bunker shot, if he had a tough lie or anything, but just to have that little switch of a two-shot swing kind of got that round started and into another gear in a sense.”

About the only bright spot for the soft-spoken South African was he tied for third with a final-round 71, relieving everyone from reminding him that he would have become only the second player in history to be runner-up in three straight majors. His mentor, Ernie Els, was the other.

Not that it would have mattered all that much to Oosthuizen. This is a guy who enjoys life on his newly purchased ranch in Florida, a guy who posted a hilarious video of himself lip-synching “Rise Up” on an airplane after completing his career runner-up grand slam in 2017 at the PGA Championship.

He never got his due from winning the British Open at St. Andrews in 2010, largely because he’s never won a regular PGA Tour event. But after the huge amounts of TV time he got in his last three majors, he’s now a household name for the wrong reason.

With a few breaks — like Bubba Watson not hitting an insane shot out of the trees to beat him in a Masters playoff — Oosthuizen could easily have a handful of majors by now. He lost another one to Zach Johnson in a three-way playoff at St. Andrews in 2015, but it’s his streak this year that has people taking notice.

For three days he owned this British Open, leading after each round. For three days people were talking about his remarkable play in majors this year.

He came up short yet again. But at least now people know how to pronounce his name.

___

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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