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British Open: Why Louis Oosthuizen may be poised to break bridesmaid string and drink from the Claret Jug again

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When Louis Oosthuizen won the 2010 British Open at The Old Course at St. Andrews, he treated the Claret Jug as if it were a holy vessel and one of the 10 Commandments had been thou shall not drink from the silver trophy.

“It was such a special thing, I didn’t want to,” he explained. “I didn’t think it was the right thing.”

His friends back home in South Africa had other ideas.

“In December (of 2010), I had some mates over at my house and I didn’t really have a choice. They said, ‘We’re drinking out of it whether you drink out of it or not,” Oosthuizen recalled on The Open Podcast.

They took turns drinking brandy and Coke, a South African favorite, Champagne and red wine. But since that runaway performance at St. Andrews, Oosthuizen has suffered his share of major misery. His runner-up finish to Spain’s Jon Rahm at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June marked his sixth time as a bridesmaid, and second straight major being close but no cigar. (He finished two strokes behind Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship in May.)

“It’s good and horrible,” Oosthuizen said on the Open podcast, which was recorded in 2020 before his latest close calls. “I think it would be a lot worse if I didn’t have a major.”

On the eve of the 149th British Open, Oosthuizen said, “You do feel a little disappointed afterwards, but I was outplayed by – with both of those majors this year, and just fell short. I can just do what I do and try and just go one better when I get to the next major.”

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One of the runner-up finishes that still stings happened at the 2015 Open at St. Andrews, where Zach Johnson pipped him in a three-man playoff.

“I still can’t believe it. I felt like no one could beat me around that golf course. I thought I was going to get it done,” Oosthuizen said.

To have a chance to win on the back nine on Sunday is all a player can hope for and then let the cards fall where they may. Oosthuizen watched the clutch putts that Rahm holed on the final two greens at Torrey and recognized that it was Rahm’s day. He still believes his time will come and he’s confident in his routine and plans to stick with what has been working pretty darn well, if not well enough.

“If it was a case where I completely collapsed the last four or five holes or something like that, it would be something I would look into a lot more. Like speak to someone. I might not be mentally strong enough or somewhere in my game and the pressure collapsed, but in those two cases,” he said, referring to the PGA and U.S. Open this year, “I don’t think that was the case. I played really well. Yeah, I hit an errant shot on 17 (at Torrey Pines), I took it on off the tee, but I was in it the whole time.

“If I can put myself in that position again and just try and aim better, I would be that insane person and try and do the same thing.”

NBC commentator Gary Koch agrees with Oosthuizen’s approach.

“If I was his sports psychologist, I’d be telling him to keep doing what he’s doing,” Koch said. “He keeps putting himself in position.”

“The one thing I would tell him is almost try and elongate the week,” said 1997 British Open champion Justin Leonard. “He seems to play beautiful golf at the first part of the week to get himself in position. Sunday hasn’t been his best day, so almost think of this week as maybe going a month long and make it into a four-week tournament where yes, he’s got a few days off in between or maybe a week off, but try and look further down the road so that come Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon when he’s teeing off, he doesn’t feel like he’s looking at the finish line but it’s more of the longer term process.”

The reason why Oosthuizen may contend yet again this week for the Claret Jug is his putting prowess. Always blessed with a beautiful swing, his putter held him back from being one of the elite players but not anymore.

“I always felt like I had too many days with my putting where it was hot and cold, and you can’t get a consistency,” he admitted. “I went back to a few things that I did as an amateur really and looked at a few things I did playing in 2010, the way I was putting, especially the week of The Open.”

This season, Oosthuizen ranks first in Strokes Gained: Putting. It’s why no one would be surprised to see him sipping out of the Claret Jug once more.

“It feels like a lifetime ago,” he said.

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