- Associated Press - Sunday, July 18, 2010

ST. ANDREWS, SCOTLAND (AP) - Put away the bagpipes and break out 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 turn Sunday and extending his lead to a record-threatening eight strokes when closest challenger Paul Casey lost his ball in the gorse.

Casey’s triple-bogey 7 at the 12th effectively ended his chances, leaving him a tie for second with fellow Englishman Lee Westwood at 9 under.

Oosthuizen (WUHST-hy-zen) rolled in a birdie at the same hole to take his score to 17 under _ four-shot swing that doubled his lead and meant only a collapse of Van de Velde proportions could stop him for winning the claret jug. The main drama coming down the stretch was whether Oosthuizen could break the modern record for most lopsided win.

The record was eight strokes. Tiger Woods was the last to win in such a rout at St. Andrews a decade ago.

Oosthuizen wobbled a bit at the par-3 eighth, making just his fifth bogey of the tournament. His tee shot was a little long and left of the green. He chipped up to 6 feet but missed the putt, allowing Casey to get within three shots.

That was as close as he got on a warm, partly cloudy day along St. Andrews Bay.

Oosthuizen rebounded at the 352-yard ninth by driving the green, then rolling in the long putt that took his score to 16 under. Casey’s chances ended when he drove into the gorse at the 12th. He had to take a penalty drop behind the bushes, came up short of the green with his approach, then knocked it through the green with his next shot before two-putting.

“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, 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 and a 3-under 285 total.

Phil Mickelson was never a factor. He closed with a 75 for 289.

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 went into Sunday as Britain’s best hope to end an 11-year winless streak in its home championship, but he wasn’t up to the task. Neither was anyone else.

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.

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