Louis Oosthuizen was something of a late bloomer, but his game is in full flower this year. (Getty Images)
How do you pronounce Oosthuizen? This way: Leader
South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen introduced himself to the world stage in a big way Friday, by firing a 67 in the rain and howling wind that would impress even his hero, Ernie Els.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- For the record, the name is pronounced “Wuhst-hy-zen.”
But Louis Oosthuizen’s friends like to call him “Shrek” -- “It’s the gap in the teeth,” he said, grinning. And although he was named after his grandfather, don’t expect him to answer to Lodewicus Theodorus. Not for a second.
“I won’t talk to them if they call me that,” Oosthuizen said, another smile spreading across the tanned, handsome face. .
Right now, though, everyone who’s anyone wants to talk to the 27-year-old South African who fired a 67 on Friday to grab the lead at 12 under at the British Open.
Oosthuizen was nearly flawless in the rain and the wind of the second round, hitting all 16 fairways and all but two greens. He’s made 15 birdies and just three bogeys over the first two rounds while using just 57 putts.
Prior to this week, though, Oosthuizen hasn’t exactly had a lot of success in majors. In fact, one scribe, mindful that the South African had only made one cut in eight previous starts, cheekily asked whether he had even thought to book accommodations through the weekend.
Not to worry. Oosthuizen, his wife Nel-Mare and their 6-month-old daughter Jana have a roof over their heads through Sunday. And if he keeps playing the way he has in the first two rounds, the Oosthuizens will be welcome anywhere.
Should he follow in his mentor Ernie Els’ footsteps and go on to win the Claret Jug, though, one can only hope it will have a better fate than the trophy Oosthuizen received when he picked up his first European Tour win earlier this year at the Open de Andalucia. Seems the folks at Monarch Airlines saw the swinging golfer hardware as a dangerous object and refused to let him carry it on the plane.
That victory in the historic Spanish enclave of Malaga on the Costa del Sol did wonders for Oosthuizen. He had finished second the previous week across the Mediterranean in Morocco and posted a fifth-place finish two months earlier to further feed his resolve.
“I think the win in Spain got my confidence going quite a bit, and I've been playing well all year, really,” Oosthuizen said. “It's just a matter of making crucial putts, I think, and yesterday I made a few crucial ones. Today I missed a few, but I made good ones, as well.
“I'm very confident the way I'm playing. I'm hitting it well, and I'm just having a lot of fun, really.”
Oosthuizen grew up on a farm outside Mossel Bay on the Garden Route of the southern coast of South Africa. He still lives next door to his parents; that is, when he’s not at his European home base in Manchester, England.
Oosthuizen’s father and brother both played tennis but by the time he was 10 or so, he knew golf was the sport he really loved. When he was 17, Oosthuizen joined the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation, and he credits that support as being instrumental in his development.
“It was unbelievable what (Ernie) did for me traveling around the country, helping with expenses, things like that,” Oosthuizen said. “He's such a good mentor, and probably without him, those three years I've been in his Foundation, I wouldn't have been here.”
Oosthuizen played a lot of junior golf with Charl Schwartzel, a two-time winner this year who ranks third on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai. They roomed together on the road and to this day play occasional practice rounds with Els.
Even so, Oosthuizen is something of a late bloomer -- at least on the world stage. He won five times on the South African Tour but the buildup to his win in Malaga was gradual, and a little too slow for his taste.
Until he had an attitude adjustment, that is.
“I was very frustrated the last four years probably on the golf course because I knew I could win … a tournament on the European Tour,” said Oosthuizen, whose low round at home at Mossel Bay, a 57, is immortalized in his website URL.
“… It just never happened. I kind of set my head around it, just have fun. You're not enjoying yourself, just at least do that. For the last two years I got my head pretty good around that.
“You know, life isn't just about golf.”
On Friday, though, his life -- and the golf -- was pretty darn good.