Coming off two near-misses in majors, Louis Oosthuizen is right back at it again in the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.
The leader of the 149th Open Championship is a smooth-swinging, unflappable South African. Stop if you’ve heard that before.
Death, taxes, and Louis Oosthuizen in contention at a major championship. These are the main certainties in life. Oosthuizen sits atop the leaderboard after his opening round at Royal St. George’s, shooting a bogey-free, six-under 64 on Thursday morning to lead Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman in the clubhouse.
Giving himself a chance to win his second major is something Oosthuizen has proven he’s good at. It’s finishing it off that’s the difficult part. Last month at Torrey Pines, he led the U.S. Open by two shots on the back-nine on Sunday. The rest is now history; Jon Rahm holed two long birdie putts on the last two holes, Oosthuizen drove his ball into the hazard on the 17th, and another major slipped from his grasp.
Oosthuizen has been runner-up at the last two majors, also finishing two shots behind Phil Mickelson at the PGA Championship. Since his lone win, 11 years ago at St. Andrews when he burst onto the scene with a seven-shot victory, he has six second-place finishes in majors, including two playoffs.
A player with a different mindset would get discouraged by all these near-misses, would begin to think it’s just not meant to be for them. Not Oosthuizen. He understands that it’s okay to lose to a better player, and dwelling on it will only stop him from getting in that position again.
“It depends if you lost it or someone else beat you. I think in both of those I was beaten by better golf at the end there,” he said following his round on Thursday. “It takes a little while, but it’s sort of, you have to get over it quickly, otherwise it’s going to hold you back to perform again.”
Attitude helps Oosthuizen get ahead in majors
Oosthuizen has the perfect combination of patience, smooth ball-striking, and clutch putting (he leads the tour in Strokes Gained: Putting this season) that’s usually a recipe for success in a major. He began his round on Thursday with seven straight pars, taking what Royal St. George’s gave him. He then rolled two straight birdies making the turn and four in a six-hole span. He got to six-under by holing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th before finishing with two pars. His 64 is already a lower round than anyone shot in 2011, the last time the Open was held on this course on the southeast coast of England.
Oosthuizen has finished in the top three in three of his last four major championships. In regular solo PGA Tour events, he hasn’t been in the top five since 2019. So what is it about these four tournaments that bring out Oosthuizen’s best on golf’s biggest stage? It’s knowing that mistakes will be made, bogeys will be had, it’s how you deal with adversity that makes a champion.
“I feel if you do the work that you feel you should have done to get ready for a tournament and you left everything sort of out on the course, then there’s not much more that you can do,” he said. “I do get upset on shots if I hit bad shots and things like that, but I try and always be at the best mindset for the next golf shot and the next tournament or the next round…I feel that’s the only way you can sort of go forward in this game.”
Oosthuizen is determined to play his best golf in the majors. If someone happens to beat him, so be it. He’ll just head back onto his farm and his tractor and forget all about it. And, hey, he’ll probably be right there the next time. No one bounces back better than Oosthuizen, and he showed that on Thursday.