ST ANDREWS, Scotland, July 17 (Reuters) – Louis Oosthuizen withstood everything thrown at him by the Scottish weather, a hungry chasing pack and a testing Old Course layout to move to the brink of a first major win at the British Open yesterday.
The South African, who missed the cut in his previous three Opens, stood one solid round away from lifting the Claret Jug after a composed 69 maintained a four-shot buffer at 15 under ahead of today’s final round.
England’s Paul Casey led a charge that looked most likely to unsettle Oosthuizen, firing a flawless 67 to match the best of the day and go 11 under as the bids of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood faltered.
Germany’s Martin Kaymer was third after a 68 moved him to eight under with Westwood, Sweden’s Henrik Stenson and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares one shot further back.
“It’s not every day you play in the final group leading the Open championship. I’m going to try and do my own thing,” said Oosthuizen, who got a phone call of encouragement from fellow South African and three-times Open winner Gary Player before his round. Ever since Oosthuizen carded a 67 on Friday and the fierce winds scattered his rivals asunder, the cynics have been waiting for his lack of experience at the business end of majors to show, but the implacable 27-year-old from Mossel Bay has had none of it.
Even after an opening hole bogey the predicted collapse never came and Oosthuizen seemed to relish the task of defying expectation.
He picked up birdies at the seventh and ninth and parred six straight holes before producing a moment of magic on the 16th green which, as with many of the putting surfaces here, is shared with another hole.
Oosthuizen puffed his cheeks out in frustration when his second shot ended up closer to the second hole flag and some 60 feet away from his intended target.
Getting down in two seemed the best outcome, but he rolled an immaculate putt straight into the hole for the most unexpected of birdies.
He parred the devilishly difficult Road hole before an inspired drive at the 18th gave him a 15ft-putt for an eagle and the chance to re-establish the five-shot lead with which he started the day.
He dragged the putt right but had an easy tap-in for birdie and the tournament is now his to lose.
“Tomorrow I’m probably going to do pretty much the same and just go out there, hit shot for shot, and never get ahead of myself,” he said.