British Open: Runners-up in consecutive majors doesn’t deter Louis Oosthuizen, who shoots 64 to lead

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Louis Oosthuizen didn’t have any trouble putting behind the frustration and disappointment of yet another runner-up finish at the U.S. Open last month. On Thursday, he jumped straight to the top of the British Open’s famous yellow leaderboard, shooting 6-under 64, one stroke better than Americans Brian Harman and Jordan Spieth and tying the lowest opening round in an Open at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England (1985, Christy O’Connor Jr.).

“Probably in my mind the perfect round I could have played,” he said. “I didn’t make many mistakes.”

A strong start is an encouraging sign for Oosthuizen’s chances to be in the Claret Jug hunt. The two previous times he opened with a round in the 60s at the Open, he won in 2010 and lost in a playoff in 2015. The playoff loss to Zach Johnson at St. Andrews stung for a long time, but Oosthuizen, who has finished second six times in majors, has proven to be a tough, resilient foe and he’s figured a way to bounce back from defeats that have broken lesser men.

“I tried to take a few days and just try and forget about it and see if I can get myself ready for the next one,” Oosthuizen said.

Louis Oosthuizen, British Open
Louis Oosthuizen, British Open

South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen reacts on the 18th green after his first round 64 on day one of The 149th British Open Golf Championship at Royal St George’s, Sandwich in south-east England on July 15, 2021. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN)

He’s also played in enough majors – this was his 165th round at a major and just his second bogey-free round (second round, 2017 PGA Championship) – to learn the importance of patience, a quality he said was indispensable at a venue like Royal St. George’s. Oosthuizen began the rigorous opening stretch with a string of pars. In fact, there were few signs that a 64 was in the making as the South African made seven straight pars out of the gate.

“I think I probably would have taken seven pars again,” he said. “I’ve learnt over the years playing major championships that patience is the key thing, and even if you make bogeys, know that a lot of people are going to make bogeys.”

But once he broke the seal, Oosthuizen took advantage of soft conditions and peeled off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.

“All of a sudden just made two good putts on 8 and 9 and got the ball rolling,” he said. “It happened quickly.”

Oosthuizen’s patience extends to his equipment. He used to change putters as often as a medical professional changed surgical gloves, but he’s settled on a Ping Voss putter that has been a godsend. He took just 25 putts in the opening round. All the putters from his days of playing musical chairs? Their days are numbered and for good reason. Oosthuizen has improved from No. 121 in strokes gained: putting in 2018 to first this season.

“I’ve got a bag there at home that I might just throw in a river someday,” he said. “Every week we were trying something. I realized quickly that there’s no way to find any consistency in putting if you do that.”

On Thursday, Oosthuizen had all systems firing: He flighted his irons well, controlled his distance and rolled his rock to an early lead and put the field on notice that he’s tired of being a bridesmaid.

“It’s surprising that he hasn’t held a claret jug or any major trophy for some time,” Golf Channel’s Justin Leonard said.

Eleven years after a dominating seven-stroke triumph at St. Andrews, Oosthuizen displayed the patience of a man who knows that the chase for major glory always is a marathon, but it doesn’t hurt to sprint quickly out of the gate.

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