NORTON, Mass. — Louis Oosthuizen combined one of the sweetest swings in golf with a putting stroke that was just as pure. That’s all it took for him to race by Rory McIlroy, leave Tiger Woods behind and seize control Sunday in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Oosthuizen ran off seven straight birdies. He shot a 29 on the front nine of the TPC Boston. And at one point, he went 19 consecutive holes without missing a green. One last birdie on the par-5 18th gave him an 8-under 63 and a three-shot lead over McIlroy going into the Labor Day finish.
The PGA Championship winner started the third round with a one-shot lead and had a 4-under 67, the kind of score that should keep him atop the leaderboard. Instead, he had to answer with four birdies on the back nine just to give himself a chance Monday.
That’s about all anyone could do. Woods (68) and was six shots behind, along with Dustin Johnson (65), who kept alive his hopes of being picked for the Ryder Cup.
Oosthuizen has a “57” on the left sleeve of his shirt, a reference to the score he once had at home in Mossel Bay along the Garden Route of South Africa.
“This felt similar, except that I was playing with friends and not in a big tournament like this one,” Oosthuizen said.
For a short time, it looked as though that personal record might be in jeopardy until he settled into a string of pars on the back nine. He dropped his lone shot on the 17th when he missed the green to the left and had to scramble for bogey.
The 2010 British Open champion — he won by seven shots at St. Andrews — was at 19-under 194.
Keegan Bradley, who made the cut on the number, also had a 63 and while he won’t be a factor at 13 shots behind, Bradley and Oosthuizen showed that it can be done. Six years ago, Woods shot 63 in the final round to beat Vijay Singh.
“I’m going to have to put together one of those rounds,” Woods said. “It won’t surprise me if somebody shoots 8- or 9-under par tomorrow because of where the pin locations are. Somebody is going to go out there and do it. It may be early, it may be late, who knows? But hopefully, I’m one of those guys.”
Bryce Molder, who is No. 93 in the FedEx Cup, had a 68 and was tied for fifth with Ryan Moore (70), eight shots behind. The position on the leaderboard is more significant to Molder than how many shots he is behind, for only the top 70 in the FedEx Cup advance to Indianapolis next week for the third playoff event.
Even so, it was hard not to ignore the separation from Oosthuizen.