There’s more major-championship heartbreak for Louis Oosthuizen.
Eleven years to the day that Oosthuizen won the British Open in 2010, he suffered a different outcome this time.
Oosthuizen, the 54-hole leader for a second straight major championship, closed in 1-over 71 at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, to finish tied for third with Jon Rahm. It marked the ninth time he’s finished either runner-up or third at a major and dropped him to 1-for-7 in converting 54-hole leads or co-leads on the PGA Tour and 1-for-4 in major championships. Oosthuizen didn’t speak to the media after his round, but posted congratulations to the Champion Golfer of the Year on social media.
“Well I do know one thing, the fans at the Open are second (or third) to none,” he tweeted. “Thank you for the incredible support this week, and congrats to Collin Morikawa who played with class and grit today. Well done mate.”
Well I do know one thing, the fans at @TheOpen are second (or third) to none. Thank you for the incredible support this week, and congrats to @collin_morikawa who played with class and grit today. Well done mate 👏🏼 #TheOpen pic.twitter.com/BZdhY8xFG8
— Louis Oosthuizen (@Louis57TM) July 18, 2021
Oosthuizen, who set a 36-hole Open scoring record with rounds of 64-65 and signed for a gutty 1-under 69 on Saturday, lacked his ballstriking excellence of the first three days. He hit several shots weak and to the right, including at the fourth hole, which lead to a bogey and gave Morikawa a share of the lead.
“His tempo, his rhythm, whatever it was, was off,” noted NBC’s Paul Azinger.
Oosthuizen picked a bad time for his swing to be out of synch. He flared another iron right at the par-5 seventh and the ball rested on the upslope of the revetted bunker. When Oosthuizen bladed the shot into a buried lie in another bunker over the green, Azinger said, “That is just pressure – plain and simple.”
Oosthuizen made bogey while Morikawa made birdie for a pivotal two-stroke swing.
“The seventh hole was definitely the turning point,” Morikawa said during his winner’s news conference. “Saw what happened to Louis. I’m not sure what happened with his first bunker shot, if he had a tough lie or anything, but just to have that little switch of a two-shot swing kind of got that round started and into another gear in a sense.”
Morikawa added birdies at Nos. 8 and 9 to extend his lead to four. Oosthuizen cut into the deficit in memorable fashion, caroming his tee shot off the flag at the 253-yard par-3 11th.
Oh my goodness😲@Louis57TM almost aces the 11th🎯
He's certainly not done yet!
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 18, 2021
But he made a critical error at No. 13, tugging his tee shot and depositing it into a bunker and leaving him no choice but to pitch out. He made bogey there and despite a bounce-back birdie at 14, he never got closer than within three strokes of Morikawa.
Oosthuizen, 38, has been a central figure in the last three majors: T-2 at the PGA Championship in May, second at the U.S. Open and T-3 at the British. Jordan Spieth, who shot a final-round 66, edged him for runner-up honors and kept him from moving up the career list for seconds. Oosthuizen has been a bridesmaid six times, tied for ninth all-time, and improbably just has one PGA Tour victory despite his textbook swing, cool, calm demeanor and evolution into a top putter.
“When I watch him play and hit his drives, I’m like, ‘Wow, I want to hit it like that,’ ” Morikawa said. “Louis is consistent, he really is. He’s going to keep knocking at these doors, and I’m sure he’s going to knock a few more down. He’s just too good. He just had an unlucky break on 7.”
But as Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee pointed out, Oosthuizen has the most runner-ups in majors of anyone who has won only one of them.
“It seems inevitable that he’s going to get another major, but at his age, there are only four majors a year, and it’s more likely that he won’t than he will,” he said.
Oosthuizen was asked on Thursday about how he managed to bounce back from the disappointment of close calls at the previous two majors this season, and he gave a telling response.
“It depends if you lost it or someone else beat you,” he said. “I think in both of those I was beaten by better golf at the end there. It takes a little while, but it’s sort of – you have to get over it quickly, otherwise it’s going to hold you back to perform again.”
In Oosthuizen’s six runner-up finishes – including at least one in all four majors – he had rarely beaten himself, shooting over par in the last round only once and on four occasions shot 70 or better. This time, it was a bit of a case of both – Oosthuizen succumbed to the pressure while also being beaten by a flawless performance by Morikawa.
As the Golf Channel’s Jaime Diaz noted, Oosthuizen has experienced heartbreak, but his heart wasn’t broken. Time will tell if he can “rise up” and earn that elusive second major.