With the memory of Dustin Johnson's epic U.S. Open collapse still fresh, the world tuned in Sunday to watch how a little-known little man from South Africa would handle a four-stroke lead and the pressure of Golf's biggest stage.
Louis Oosthuizen had it all the way.
So much so, in fact, that the energy and excitement normally endemic to the final day of a Major cowered and hid from the workmanlike consistency Oosthuizen brought to St. Andrews.
And it never found an opportunity to show itself.
Displaying the true heart of a champion, Oosthuizen flexed his muscles by parring the first seven holes. Even the ESPN commentators betrayed a sense of irritable restlessness, almost challenging the closest of his pursuers to do something—anything—to mount a comeback.
When Lovable Louis bogeyed eight, and Paul Casey was suddenly only three shots back, we wanted to believe this guy was human after all—that this was the first sign pointing to his inevitable demise. After 62 holes of near-perfection, the wheels were finally starting to come off.
But when Oosthuizen eagled nine, we had a strong feeling we were wrong. And when Casey triple-bogeyed twelve, we were sure of it. The rest, as they say, was history.
But what sort of history was it?
Oh sure, Oosthuizen won by seven strokes, and those who so convincingly conquer the ancient grounds of St. Andrews are assured golfing immortality and eternal respect from their peers. But frankly, Oosthuizen lacked the typical flair we expect to attend a Major winner's game. For the last two-and-a-half days, nobody threatened his lead; and because nobody threatened his lead, we went to sleep.
Louis Oosthuizen (Woost-hazen). When he took a commanding five-shot lead to the clubhouse on Friday, everybody—from the announcers to the press conference moderator—botched his name. Perhaps his greatest victory of the week was that people finally started to get a bit of a handle on it by Sunday. But this trivial difficulty still begs the question: Will we remember a champion whose name we can barely pronounce?
Rather, in lieu of his name bearing his legacy, Oosthuizen will go down in the annals of history as The Machine, or The Soporific Champion.
He exhibited great aplomb on the golf course; he accepted his victory with characteristic humility. The guy came out of nowhere, and the slipper fit. These are the ingredients that should make for a great surprise winner.
And yet a runaway victory from a nobody like this could never equal the heart-rending drama produced by Tom Watson in a losing effort last year at Turnberry, or for that matter the last-day heroics of Ben Curtis in 2003 at Royal St. George's. Even the ten-stroke come-from-behind victory of Paul Lawrie at Car-nasty in 1999, complete with Jean Van de Velde's meltdown, embodied a charm that Oosthuizen's win so demonstrably lacked.
Less than a month ago, it befitted South Africa to be contracted in one brow of woe when it became the first host nation in the history of the World Cup to fail to reach the second round. Nobody expected them to make much noise. At the same time, one cannot help but feel for a country so deeply scarred by a history of political turmoil; one felt that, for once, they deserved something to go right for them.
I don't want to detract from what Oosthuizen accomplished. He played extremely well for four days, and he gave South Africa something to cheer about in the wake of World Cup disappointment.
But South Africa has produced Major champions in the past, and it will do so again. Wouldn't the country have been just as happy—or even more so—had Ernie Els picked himself up off the garbage heap to win his first major since 2002? Wouldn't South Africans have been just as satisfied if Retief Goosen had mounted a Sunday charge? Probably.
Oosthuizen's boring win just doesn't fit well into the fairy tale format. The dominance with which he subdued the field and St. Andrews never allowed his story the chance to gain steam. Very early on, his Cinderella Story lost its legs.
Sorry Louis, but it's hard to put a slipper on someone who has no feet.
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