- Associated Press - Sunday, July 18, 2010

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (AP) - Put away the bagpipes and warm up those vuvuzelas. Louis Oosthuizen was closing in on his first major championship.

The 27-year-old South African kept up his steady play at the British Open for the fourth straight round, rolling in a 50-foot eagle putt at the ninth hole that helped him maintain a four-stroke lead at the turn Sunday.

Oosthuizen (WUHST-hy-zen) made just his fifth bogey of the tournament at the par-3 eighth. His tee shot was a little long and left of the green. He chipped up to 6 feet but missed the putt.

Oosthuizen rebounded at the 352-yard ninth by driving the green, then rolling in the long putt that took his score to 16 under and restored the lead he had over England’s Paul Casey at the start of the day.

The leader was at least eight shots clear of everyone else in the field, making it into a two-man race. Casey made a two-putt birdie at the ninth to at least keep Oosthuizen in his sights on a warm, partly cloudy day along St. Andrews Bay.

“Go get ‘em, Louie!” a South African fan shouted in an Afrikaans accent.

Oosthuizen’s nation is on quite a roll, coming off its successful hosting of soccer’s World Cup. Vuvuzelas were the soundtrack of that event, horns that made an ear-splitting noise similar to a swarm of attacking bees.

They aren’t allowed in golf, of course, but they might be buzzing if Oosthuizen holds onto his lead. One fan trailed the leader carrying a South African soccer scarf and wearing a “Bafana Bafana” jacket, the nickname of the South African soccer team.

Tiger Woods, who had won the last two Opens at St. Andrews, went back to his old putter but still managed only an even-par 72. He was 13 shots off the lead when he finished.

Oosthuizen had made the cut only once in his first eight major championships before he posted three straight rounds in the 60s, including a 3-under 69 Saturday that gave the rest of the field plenty of work to do trying to chase down his 15-under 201.

Casey was Britain’s best hope to end an 11-year winless streak in its home championship. Another Englishman, Lee Westwood, was at 8 under along with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. First-round leader Rory McIlroy was 7 under along with the top American, Dustin Johnson, and Germany’s Martin Kaymer.

While an Oosthuizen victory would be a big surprise, it wouldn’t be unprecedented for someone to emerge from obscurity at golf’s oldest major. Ben Curtis was ranked 396th in the world when he won at Royal St. George in 2003. Todd Hamilton stunned Ernie Els in a playoff at Troon the following year.

If nothing else, someone was bound to win his first major championship at St. Andrews. The only guy on the leaderboard with a major title on his resume was two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, and he was 10 strokes back.

The final round started in fairly calm conditions, giving the early starters a chance to put up some low numbers. Wearing a gaudy, pumpkin-colored outfit, Rickie Fowler of the U.S. birdied the last two holes for a 67. Alvaro Quiros also had a 67, while Trevor Immelman of South Africa and Edoardo Molinari of Italy shot a pair of 68s.

But the wind picked up in the afternoon, making it tougher on those with later tee times.

The greens were Woods‘ main problem. He needed a staggering 35 putts to get through the third round, so he switched back to the Scotty Cameron model made by Titleist that he has used since 1999. He played the first three rounds with a Nike Method, believing it would help him cope with the slower speed of St. Andrews’ massive greens.

Woods‘ putting improved _ he took only 27, his best performance of the week by far _ but his other swings let him down. He had a pair of double-bogeys on the front side, ending any hope of a comeback.