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Monday, 19 July 2010
Louis Oosthuizen  (Getty Images)
Louis Oosthuizen (Getty Images)

Trying to win your first Major title is no easy thing, but there was one obvious factor to help make it easier for Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews.

Of his 16 nearest challengers with a round to go only one of them - fellow South African Retief Goosen - had lifted one of golf's four biggest titles.

And, after double-bogeying the 17th in his third round, twice US Open champion Goosen was  ten shots back in joint eighth place.

So at four shots clear of the field Oosthuizen, given the nickname 'Shrek' by friends and with a head cover to match until his caddie decided it was bringing bad luck, faced his biggest battle with his own inner demons.

First of all, the 27 year old from Mossel Bay - he had an amazing 14 under par round of 57 there eight years ago just after leaving the amateur ranks - had to forget his Major record.

The 150th anniversary Open was only the ninth he had played and of the previous eight he had gone home early from seven and in the other one, the 2008 US PGA, he closed with rounds of 81 and 77 to finish last of those who made the cut.

What he had to remember instead was that he was the World Number 54 and in the past 11 years alone Paul Lawrie had lifted the Claret Jug when he was ranked 159th, Todd Hamilton had done it when he was 56th - and Ben Curtis, playing his first Major at Sandwich in 2003, was 396th at the time.

And while Oosthuizen might be only the fifth-ranked South African in the game behind Ernie Els, Goosen, Tim Clark and Charl Schwartzel, his talent has never been in question.

The son of a farmer - and named Lodewicus Theodorus after his grandfather - Oosthuizen showed promise at tennis before becoming hooked on golf and at 17 took up the chance to join the Foundation scheme set up by Els after his two US Open victories.

"I don't know where I would have gone in tennis, but I feel like I'm doing pretty well in golf," he said.

"Things probably weren't going that great on the farm and we just heard of the Foundation. It was unbelievable.

"It's just nice knowing him (Els). He's a great, great guy to be around. And when he won in 2002 you think 'Wow, I hope that happens to me'."

He became World Junior Champion - and winner of the Irish stroke play title - that same year, turned professional with a plus-six handicap and had to wait only until 2004 for his first South African Tour victory.

Europe proved tougher for him. He had to make two trips to the qualifying school and it was only this March that he achieved his first win in Malaga when he took the Open de Andalucia de Golf title.

"It was a matter of not believing in myself, I think," he said of the time it took him to start fulfilling other people's expectations.

"Everyone around here is telling me 'you've got the shots, you're playing well'. That win earlier this season just got my mind set in a different way."

Even an opening seven under par 65 this week did not put the spotlight on him too much because it came after Rory McIlroy had equalled the major record with a 63.

And not that much attention was paid to him either when he teed off for his second round because he did it at 6.41am on Friday.

With McIlroy crashing to an 80, many thought Oosthuizen might come unstuck himself when there was no escaping centre stage in the third round.

But with a 69 his lead came down only from five to four. He had his dream in sight and he went and got it.

 

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