ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- The most telling moment of a long day at the Old Course may have come toward the very end, past the hour when most of St. Andrews had already eaten dinner, and all but a handful of golfers had already vacated the premises.
But there was Louis Oosthuizen's approach shot on the famed 17th hole bounding through the green and onto the adjacent 18th tee, where the English pairing of Lee Westwood and Paul Casey were waiting to hit their drives. When the ball rolled to within inches of their feet, Casey stood still and smiled, but Westwood couldn't resist.
He stepped to the ball, pulled back his driver, and motioned as if he'd like desperately to knock Ootshuizen's ball back to where he felt it belonged -- which is to say, nowhere near the final, climactic moments of Saturday at the Open Championship.
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Somehow, though, Oosthuizen finds himself not only in contention at the Open, but well clear of anyone else, including two Brits whose resumes would argue are far more deserving of a claret jug. That would certainly be the case with Westwood (eight shot back at seven under), the third-ranked player in the world who has already endured a string of frustrating close calls in majors. But it would also include Casey, who held the No. 3 ranking before succumbing to a series of injuries, and who burst up the leader board with a 67 on Thursday.
At 11-under par, the 32-year-old Casey will be four shots behind Oosthuizen when they take the tee as the final pairing Sunday. The mere absurdity of it conjured up a bemused smile after his round, but Casey wasn't so far behind dismiss his chances, especially against a player as untested as Oosthuizen.
"I can't tell you what's going to happen in the future," Casey said. "But I desperately want to be a major champion, and I think I have the ability and I think I'm working hard enough. But that doesn't guarantee anything, as we know."
"It depends on the weather," Westwood said. "If it's a miserable, windy day, anything can happen, but Louis and Paul like they are playing well."
*-- Sam Weinman