British OpenJuly 13, 2015

Recalling Louis Oosthuizen's magic at the Old Course

Editor's Note: This story originally ran in the July 13, 2015 issue of Golf World.

By dinnertime Monday after the U.S. Open, Louis Oosthuizen was back at his home in Florida, letting friends pose for photos with the silver medal he won for finishing second to Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay.

Oosthuizen normally doesn't celebrate runner-ups, but to have been that close required one of the most dramatic comebacks in U.S. Open history.

Twelve shots off the lead after a first-round 77, and nine over par after his opening two bogeys on Friday, Oosthuizen seemed stuck in the same funk as playing partners Tiger Woods and Rickie Fowler. But instead of a missed cut, the 32-year-old South African got blazing hot with rounds of 66-66-67, setting the Open record for the lowest final 54 holes and forcing Spieth to birdie the 72nd hole to beat him.

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Oosthuizen's finishing kick, which included a 29 on the final nine holes, brought back memories of his brilliant seven-stroke victory at the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews. Unfortunately, not much magic has followed.

There was Oosthuizen's 253-yard hole out with a 4-iron for double eagle on Augusta's downhill par-5 second hole during the final round of the 2012 Masters. But even that shot was largely forgotten after Bubba Watson's miracle hook from the trees on the 10th hole beat Oosthuizen in the playoff.

Mostly, the last five years have been defined by a series of back and neck injuries, which is why Chambers Bay represents an important building block.

"It was definitely a better feeling than walking off second at Augusta," Oosthuizen said from his home at Old Palm G.C. in Palm Beach Gardens, where he lives with his wife and three daughters. "I'll take a lot more from this one."

Related: How a specially-made bed helped get Oosthuizen in contention at the U.S. Open

When he returns to the Old Course, Oosthuizen will be carrying some strong memories. In 2010, he arrived having missed seven cuts in his previous eight majors, but quickly fell in love with the ancient links. A large part of his affection came from a sudden sense of comfort with the left-to-right ball flight that he and swing coach Pete Cowen had worked on since 2005, leaving Oosthuizen free to unleash his silky but powerful swing and simply "smash" the ball off the tee.

"For St. Andrews it was the perfect shot for me," Oosthuizen said of his power fade. He put on one of the greatest driving exhibitions ever seen, leading the field in driving accuracy and ranking third in distance.

This year, Oosthuizen is more focused on his putter than his driver. One of his good friends, Ian Baker-Finch, who put on one of the best putting displays in the championship's history when he won at Royal Birkdale in 1991, says Louis has been gaining confidence in his stroke through work with putting coach Phil Kenyon.

And Oosthuizen has got another set of memories to draw from—the ones from Chambers Bay. Of course, rather than another silver medal, Oosthuizen will be shooting for another claret jug.

"I was always looking forward to St. Andrews," he said before departing for Scotland last Friday. "I've been feeling for a while now it's really close, and I needed a good, solid week to get my mind right. I just needed those putts to fall, and things like that can get you in the right direction. I hope [Chambers Bay] will do that for me."

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