Oosthuizen starts 2014 in style

1/12/2014 1:54:00 PM
Louis Oosthuizen  (Getty Images)
Louis Oosthuizen (Getty Images)
For the fourth year running Louis Oosthuizen began the calendar year with victory on home soil as he retained the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban.

South African Oosthuizen was one shot behind compatriot Branden Grace with two holes to play, but birdied them both to card a closing 68 and win by one shot on 12 under par.

That means all seven European Tour events staged at Durban Country Club have now been won by South Africans, while eight of the last 11 tournaments in South Africa have been won by home players.

Oosthuizen has also now started each of the last four calendar years with a victory thanks to a perfect finish after falling foul of the 16th hole for the second day running.

The 31 year old followed his triple-bogey seven on Saturday with a bogey five on Sunday to fall one shot behind Grace, who had birdied two of his last three holes to shoot a 68 and set the clubhouse target.

However, as Grace watched on television, Oosthuizen hit a superb approach to two feet on the 17th and then chipped to the same distance on the short par four 18th to seal the win and first prize of €507,654.

"After my tee shot on 16 I was lucky that I could chip it out and nearly made a great par," Oosthuizen said. "But when I stood over the ball on 17 I saw that Branden had made birdie on 18 so I knew that second shot was crucial to give myself a good opportunity and I hit it really close.

"And then 18, everyone thinks you just need to make a birdie but around that green it's not easy and luckily I was far enough past where I could pitch it back into the grain and get it close.

"It was nerve-wracking through the round but I finished strong and I'm just happy that I got it done. It's an awesome start for the year. Confidence-wise it's great.

"I haven't really played well last year with all the injuries so hopefully I can build from here on and just go better next time."

Oosthuizen won The Open Championship at St Andrews in 2010 and lost a play-off to Bubba Watson for the Masters Tournament in 2012, but lasted one round in the US Open, eight holes in The Open at Muirfield and missed the US PGA entirely last season due to various injury problems.

"I've got three weeks now that I really need to work on my back," Oosthuizen added. "It's still not 100 per cent. Luckily this week I didn't have to hit a lot of drivers, but once I get to Augusta I need to hit driver."

Grace, who had won this event in 2012, admitted Oosthuizen's finish made for uncomfortable viewing, adding: "It was terrible watching it. But the winner at the end of the week is going to be the true champion and he played well so he deserves it.

"I thought I played some superb golf today. I let a couple slip out there which was unfortunate but if you had told me my first event I would start off with a second place, I would have taken it. This really gives you a push in the right direction so I'm really stoked."

England's Tommy Fleetwood had held a one shot advantage heading into the final round and briefly stretched that to three thanks to a birdie at the second and mistakes from his rivals.

However, three bogeys in five holes from the fifth cost Fleetwood a second European Tour title and he had to settle for a closing 72 and a tie for third with Dutchman Joost Luiten, with Padraig Harrington and French duo Raphaël Jacquelin and Victor Dubuisson another shot back on nine under.

"Today was the best I have hit it off the tee all week and it was a shame the rest of the game let me down," Fleetwood, 22, said. 

"After the long birdie putt on the second my putter went cold and it was not meant to be.

"It's always great when you can be leading going into the final round of such a big event. I could have been four under, shot 66 and finished on the same score and not learned half as much.

"You have to take the positives and I have finished tied third in the first event and overall it's been a very good week."

Three-time Major winner Harrington has remarkably not tasted victory on The European Tour since his 2008 US PGA triumph, but said after his 67: "It was nice to feel I had a chance coming down the stretch.

"I'm happy with how I am hitting the ball but distraught with the way I'm putting."