Belfast Telegraph

The Open: Louis Oosthuizen has the fight of a true champion

By James Lawton

It was no disservice to Louis Oosthuizen here last night when you looked at him in a certain, slightly disbelieving way, and then thought of some of the more flamboyant Open champions.

He had, after all, never presented himself as the new Nicklaus or Ballesteros, and still less the earth-moving Tiger Woods.

Indeed, had he been any less pretentious these last few days he might have been shucking oysters in a local restaurant.

The point is that there are various ways of measuring champions and however you do it, in this case there is a bottom line of absolute splendour.

It deals with the quality that will always separate the winners and the losers, wherever they come from and however heavy, or not, their reputations.

It is about pure fighting quality and that supreme ability to say, ‘This is my moment, the chance I have always waited for, and no one is going to stop me.'

Paul Casey, the hope of Britain and a man of rather flashier credentials, went through the formalities of a challenge and on the eighth green he had reduced the gap to a mere three strokes.

A great wave of anticipation swept around the Old Course. Maybe we would, in the end, have something of a battle.

It was a concept that lasted just four more holes, by which time the 27-year-old South African was leading by precisely the margin which he carried into the most important day of his professional life.

That was eight strokes, shots coaxed out of the wind that had blown at various strength over the previous four days but never at the cost of Oosthuizen's peace of mind.

Why, though, when you thought about it, would this player of all players ever be spooked, or even disconcerted, by the sigh and the moaning of the wind? He grew up, the son of an Afrikans family, on a farm in the Cape country scoured by gales of consistent ferocity and it was clear here soon enough that he felt utterly at home.

Not just with the caprices of the Fifeshire weather and the possibility that at some point someone like Tiger or Phil or the lurking Lee Westwood, who has fought so hard for so long to make a decisive move at the climax of a major tournament, might erupt and send him back to the reality of a minor career, but also his ability to stand up over four days to the competitive pressure which can drag the life out of you in the course of a hole or two on this least predictable of linksland.

When that kind of possibility reared most dangerously on the ninth hole, when Casey had not only somehow narrowed the gap to three shots but also placed himself in a good position to make a second birdie in four holes, Oosthuizen's response was to follow the pattern he had punched out in the three days which left him four shots clear when he walked to the first tee yesterday afternoon.

He followed Casey in driving the green at 352 yards, then eagled with a putt of 50 feet. Casey, not for the first time feeling ambushed by a superior force, replied with a birdie.

It was the best he could do and showed a certain gameness that might easily have been banished by the first evidence that the man from the Cape had brought with him the frame of mind which had produced three rounds of stunning consistency — 65, 67 and 69.

Not since the Tiger, a strangely irrelevant and, despite the classic red golf shirt, anonymous figure yesterday had dominated this tournament 10 and five years ago had we seen here such evidence of a man so in control of every shot, every reflex, every casual reflection.

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