The Open 2015: Louis Oosthuizen on what it takes to win at St. AndrewsJune, 2015
The South African is ready to return to the scene of his greatest triumph
In the modern era only Tiger Woods has dominated an Open championship more than Louis Oosthuizen did five years ago at the Home of Golf.
Even after a first-round 65 the South African didn’t capture too many headlines given Rory McIlroy’s opening 63 that included eight birdies in his last 10 holes.
While McIlroy disintegrated with a second-round 80 Oosthuizen quickly marched five clear. He would take the lead after six holes on Friday and never relinquish it.
Maybe it was his relative anonymity, or perhaps it was seen as a bit of a fluke given a Major record that showed just one cut in his previous eight starts, but it remains one of the most undervalued Major victories in recent times.
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Oosthuizen looked every inch a multiple Major winner in Scotland which was only backed up at Augusta in 2012 when only Bubba Watson’s ridiculous escape from down in the undergrowth beside the 10th fairway put an end to their two- hole play-off.
Ask any pool of Tour players who has got the best swing in the game and the 32-year-old’s name will quickly come up.
Much of the past two seasons has been forgettable, with injuries getting in the way of that free-flowing swing, but Oosthuizen ended 2014 with something of a flourish and looks well set for the Open’s return to St Andrews in July.
We are back at St Andrews for the Open this year, when did you first play there?
I think 2003 was the first time I played the Dunhill Links. It is such a special place, every golfer loves playing St Andrews.
I have played every year at the Dunhill, I didn’t qualify in 2005 for the Open and then obviously 2010.
I always saw myself as a youngster, growing up in windy conditions, one day hoisting the Claret Jug one day. I got lucky winning it there (laughs).
Part of your pre-shot routine involved having a red dot drawn on your glove – what was that about?
The red dot came about the week before really, it was something to get my focus and routine starting. I was struggling at the time to get into the shot and was working with Karl Morris and we started with the red dot which, whenever I looked down, helped me to start things.
“If you keep it left there is a lot of room and you have to know where the bunkers are”
I used it for a month but it definitely helped me to get into the shot and to win the Open.
What was your strategy for the Old Course?
Like any links golf, if you stay out the bunkers you will have done something that not many golfers have achieved. At St Andrews if you keep it left there is a lot of room and you have to know where the bunkers are.
The greens are so massive you will have to make some 30-footers.
Did you have any contact with three-time Open champion Gary Player?
He phoned me on the Saturday night to wish me luck and said not to worry about the crowds – I was playing with Paul Casey in the final round – and to have fun.
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On the Sunday morning I got in the car from the range to the 1st tee and, as I got in the car, Tom Watson came out the door and said ’play well young man’.
So little things like that, you think afterwards, that was great. At the time you think, this is making me more nervous!
You had missed the cut in seven of your eight Majors?
It did bother me as they are the ones where you want to perform and the one you really practice towards and that got me sort of going in the right direction in the Majors.
Do you enjoy seeing top players struggle?
For some reason I was very relaxed that week, I didn’t worry about my game as I was swinging so well that I wasn’t thinking about a shot that would amaze me with a really bad swing.
Your lead was never less than three shots on the Sunday, did you have a chance to relax?
I never felt relaxed, even taking a seven-shot lead with six holes to go. There wasn’t a time when I could easily think I had won and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to give myself the biggest lead going to the 17th. That is a big tee shot.
Which you then played conservatively?
Under pressure I like to go at it with the driver, tee it down a bit and go at it to make sure I make a committed swing. At that point
I was hitting a little cut and I felt comfortable aiming a bit left of where I wanted and, if I went in the rough, I would lay up.
The plan was to just get it anywhere on the left side of the fairway.
“I could take anything at the last less than eight”
After that tee shot I relaxed a little bit as I was never going to take that shot on with a big lead, I took two clubs less and hit it to the side, putted to the side and took the bogey.
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I took a lot in after that tee shot, I looked around at the spectators, at what the people were doing, I didn’t have that at all at Augusta where I was so focused on trying to win.
Then I could take anything at the last that was less than eight.
You have shot rounds of 57 and 59. How do you keep attacking and not defensive?
One thing is to never get ahead of yourself. Not just during a good round but when you are trying to win a tournament, you never think about how you will be feeling on the 18th.
It is as simple as keeping it shot for shot, trying to hit your best shot all the time.