Oosthuizen pulls away to dominating Open title

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No, there was only that gap-tooth smile that earned him the nickname “Shrek” from his friends. And there was amazement across his face when he cradled the oldest trophy in golf, a silver claret jug with his name etched alongside Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, and the other South African winners _ Gary Player, Bobby Locke and Ernie Els, his mentor.

Without the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation in South Africa, the son of a farmer could not have afforded the travel required to reach the game’s highest level.

“It was great to have a South African winning it on Mandela Day,” said Dennis Bruyns, the chief executive of the Southern Africa PGA. “And there was a great sense of satisfaction in having a South African caddie with him, too.”

It was the fifth major for the Springboks dating to Retief Goosen winning the U.S. Open in 2001, and the first at the British Open since Els won at Muirfield in 2002, a victory that inspired Oosthuizen.

“Shrek is on the move,” Goosen said. “I knew he had a lot of talent. He grew up in an area (Mossel Bay) that’s very windy, so for him, these conditions are normal. The guy’s got one of the best swings on tour. I think he’ll be around for many years to come.”

Some 45 miles away, Player was returning from a golf outing and listening to every shot on the radio, proud as can be. He saw the potential during a practice round they played at the Masters this year.

Player called Oosthuizen on Sunday morning and gave him a pep talk.

“I told him he’s got to realize that lots of people are hitting bad shots,” Player said, not knowing how few of those the kid would hit. “And I told him the crowd was naturally going to show a bias. But I reminded him when I played Arnold Palmer in 1961 at the Masters, only my wife and my dog was pulling for me. I told him he’s got to get in there and be more determined to win.”

Oosthuizen was relaxed as he could be, putting his arm around Rasego after hitting off the 18th tee and walking over the Swilcan Bridge, thousands of fans packed into the grandstands, along the road and peering out the shop windows.

“It’s a proud moment for us, especially with the Old Man, winning on his birthday,” Rosega said. “Winning at St. Andrews, it’s unbelievable. He deserves what he’s just done.”

The 150th anniversary of golf’s oldest championship was memorable in so many ways.

It began with Rory McIlroy tying the major championship record with a 63 in some of the calmest conditions at the course. It ended with someone other than Woods hoisting the claret jug in front of the R&A clubhouse.

Woods tapped in on the final hole and removed his cap to salute the gallery, just as he did the last two Opens at St. Andrews. Only this time, the tournament was still two hours from finishing. Woods made two double bogeys on his way to a 72 and tied for 23rd.

It was his seventh tournament of the year without a victory, matching the longest drought of his career.

“I’m not going to win all of them,” Woods said after his worst 72-hole finish in a major in six years. “I’ve lost a lot more than I’ve won.”

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