Laidback Louis Crowned King of South Africa

By: | Mon 10 Dec 2018 | Comments


EVEN Louis Oosthuizen might be prepared to admit that he has not achieved everything he should have done in golf, but he overcome a shaky start to win the South African Open by six shots, thus joining an elite group of golfers comprising Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson to have won this and The Open Championship. It is pretty exalted company.

The 2010 Open champion had won four of his eight European Tour titles on home soil but had yet to win his home Open and was playing the event for the first time since 2011. He entered the final day at Johannesburg's Randpark Golf Club with a three-shot lead and while he saw that cut to one after three holes, he recovered to sign for a 67 and get to 18 under, six shots clear of Frenchman Romain Langasque.

Langasque's closing 66 earned him one of three spots available for The Open at Royal Portrush, with Charl Schwartzel and England's Oliver Wilson claiming the other two. Wilson has endured a miserable time since winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in 2014 but two victories on the Challenge Tour in 2018 have boosted his confidence and he will head home to England for Christmas believing that he may finally have turned things around.

Schwartzel and Wilson finished at ten under alongside South Africans Thomas Aiken and Bryce Easton

Oosthuizen was clearly moved by his victory. “I wish the family was here,” said Oosthuizen as he struggled to fight back the tears on the 18th green. “The crowd was great this whole week, it was nice to do it for them. I knew today was either going to be very special or heartbreaking. I know there's only a few that have won The Open and the SA Open so I'm very chuffed to have my name on this.

“We had a tough start today and my caddie just told me, ‘you're swinging it well, just go for it'. I just got back to basics, to try and hit fairways and greens. I know I'm putting well, I just needed to give myself putting opportunities for birdie. This feels very special. This is perfect.”

Oosthuizen recovered from a poor opening drive to make a par but could not repeat the feat on the second and when he went right again off the third tee and found sand with his second, the lead was down to one and he was starting to fear the worst.

But the South African kept his head. A birdie on the par-five fifth and an approach to six feet on the sixth then moved him back into a three-shot lead and nobody would get any closer. A long putt on the seventh brought another birdie and when Oosthuizen drove the ninth green and got down in two he was in front by five and coasting.

Langasque bogeyed the third but birdies on the fourth, sixth, ninth, 12th and 13th sent him up the leaderboard, with a brilliant second to four feet on the par-five 14th setting up an eagle. That reduced the lead back to three shots but tee-trouble on the 16th for the Qualifying School graduate sent him back to 12 under and Oosthuizen had a comfortable lead once more. The leader put his second on the par-five 14th to two feet for an eagle and a six-shot lead and he led by seven after a stunning approach on the 16th.

A bogey on the 17th after finding sand off the tee meant he would only share the record winning margin since this event joined the European Tour in 1997, but that could not take the gloss off the emotional scenes on the final green.

Schwartzel had led after 36 holes and a 72-72 weekend was enough to give him a seventh top five at this event and an 11th consecutive appearance at The Open.

A closing 67 means Wilson will be appearing at The Open for the sixth time, while Easton and Aiken closed with rounds of 66 and 67 respectively. A 73 from Madalitso Muthiya earned him the best-ever finish by a Zambian on the European Tour, with South Africans Branden Grace, Jbe Kruger, Anthony Michael, Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, South Korean Yikeun Chang and Dane Jeff Winther also at nine under.

PGA TOUR

Brian Harman and Patton Kizzire shot a better-ball final round of 61 to win the 30th QBE Shootout with a 30-under-par total at Tiburon Golf Club. The winners eagled the par-five 17th to set up a one-stroke victory over Graeme McDowell and Emiliano Grillo. Kizzire and Harman opened with a 59 in the first-round scramble and had a 66 on Saturday in modified alternate shot.

McDowell and Grillo shot 62, making seven straight birdies from the 11th, but it wasn’t quite good enough.  The teams of Gary Woodland-Charley Hoffman, Kevin Na-Bryson DeChambeau and Luke List-Charles Howell III tied for third at 28 under. Woodland and Hoffman shot 63, Na and DeChambeau 62, and List and Howell had two back-nine eagles in a 61.

Kizzire and Harman each earned $422,500.

LPGA Tour player Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau had a 65 to finish seventh at 23 under.

At first glance, Harman and Kizzire seemed like an unlikely combination. For starters, the 6ft 5in Kizzire is almost a foot taller than his left-handed teammate. They weren’t even meant to play together. Harman was a late addition to the field after Davis Love III pulled out to be with his sick mother.

Harman and Kizzire have known each other since they were 12, when they took turns beating each other at junior regional and national tournaments. “I think there's a picture of him holding the first place trophy and me holding the second place trophy,” Harman said, “but he was short and pudgy then.”

“At a young age I think I got him a few times,” Kizzire said. “But there in our teens he had my number. We had a lot of good matches.”

The pair are also regular practice partners and also go fishing together. “Harman bought a boat,” Kizzire said, “and I called him and I said, ‘I heard I won a boat.’ No need to buy one if your buddy has got one.” Added Harman: “He's only got to help me clean it afterwards.”

Both men love this time of year on the golf course too. Harman achieved six top-10 finishes in his first six starts last season, while Kizzire enjoyed his first two PGA Tour wins, at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii, over the same period.

It didn’t last, with Kizzire sweating it out to nab the 30th and final spot in the Tour Championship and Harman missing out altogether after finishing 48th in the FedExCup.

“All of a sudden I found myself in contention to make the Ryder Cup,” said Harman, also a two-time TOUR winner. “All that stuff just kind of overwhelmed me just a little bit, and I just started pressing towards the end of the year.”

The winning stroke in the Shootout came when Kizzire reached the green with a 7-iron at the par-5 17th and rolled in the eagle putt. Harman, who had hit his second shot inside 10 feet, didn’t even need to putt.


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