Confident Oosthuizen leads South African charge

Reigning British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen has new confidence after his first Major triumph entering the 75th Masters, where he is among a host of strong South African contenders.

Oosthuizen withstood the swirling winds of St Andrews last July for a seven-stroke triumph and followed it by winning the African Open in January. But even now, he has not totally adjusted to the changes in his life.

“Going into a tournament, confidence and everything is a lot higher, especially in the Majors,” Oosthuizen said Tuesday. “Just showed me that I can win a major and compete in big tournaments.

“Off the golf course, it’s completely different than what I was used to. It took me a while to get used to it and probably I’m still getting used to it, but it’s a good change.”

The former farm boy missed defending his breakthrough European Tour title at the Andalucia Open last month because of an eye infection, but has recovered and surprised himself with his form last week at the United States PGA Houston Open.

“Was quite a bit surprised the way I played really,” Oosthuizen said. “I thought it was going to be quite a bit more rusty than that, so that gave me a little boost to this week.”

Oosthuizen has missed the cut the past two years in his only prior Masters starts.

Staying calm
“I feel quite good for this week. It’s a matter of staying calm out there, because you know you’re going to get a few tough ones, and it’s the type of golf course that can easily hurt you.”

Other South Africans in the Masters field include three-time major champion, Ernie Els, the 2002 and 2004 Masters runner-up; Tim Clark, the 2006 Masters runner-up; Retief Goosen, who shared second at Augusta National in 2002; 2007 Masters runner-up Rory Sabbatini and 2008 Masters winner Trevor Immelman.

Oosthuizen spent three years developing his game with help from Els’ foundation.

“Ernie was the one everyone wanted to be like,” Oosthuizen said. “In South Africa and around the world, he’s probably still one of the big heroes out there.”

Oosthuizen fell victim to the Masters curse last year by winning the Par-3 Contest staged on the eve of the tournament. No winner of the short-course event has ever gone on to win the Masters in the same week.

That won’t stop Oosthuizen from trying to defend his crown and extend a South African Par-3 win streak that began with Rory Sabbatini in 2008 and continued with Tim Clark in 2009.

“I don’t like to believe in things like that but it happens all the time,” he said.

“I’m definitely playing again. My little girl is going to walk with me. So I’ll probably try and get her to kick the ball or something so my score doesn’t count.” — Sapa-AFP

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Jim Slater
Jim Slater
Sports Editor Agence France-Presse (AFP).
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