ST ANDREWS, Scotland, (Reuters) – South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen turned the British Open into a procession yesterday, winning the famed Claret Jug after crushing the world’s best by seven strokes at the home of golf.
The 27-year-old brought the Old Course, and the rest of the field, to its knees with an assured display of ball-striking and control to become the sixth South African major winner, and the first at the Open since Ernie Els in 2002.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say happy birthday to Mr Nelson Mandela back in South Africa,” Oosthuizen said after being presented with the trophy on the 18th green.
It was the former South African president’s 92nd birthday yesterday.
Oosthuizen, who had missed the cut in all his three previous Opens and was a 200-1 outsider before the tournament started, never looked like being headed after starting the day four clear and he finished with a 71 for a 16-under total of 272.
The 27-year-old sank a short par putt at the 18th, took off his cap to acknowledge the thunderous applause from the crowd that lined the revered fairways, hugged his caddie before embracing his wife Nel-Mare and young daughter Jana.
England’s Lee Westwood emerged from the pack to finish second, a 70 putting him on 279.
Compatriot Paul Casey (75), who began the day as Oosthuizen’s closest challenger, ended in a tie for third spot on eight under alongside Sweden’s Henrik Stenson (71) and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (68).
“To win an Open championship is special but to win it here at St Andrews is something you dream about,” he said after revealing compatriot and nine-times major winner Gary Player had called with words of encouragement yesterday morning.
The win, which moved Oosthuizen from 54th to 15th in the world rankings, earned him $1.31 million and made a mockery of the form book.
Not only had he never made an Open cut before but it was only his second professional win outside South Africa while his previous best finish in a major was 73rd in the 2008 U.S. PGA Championship.
World number one Tiger Woods endured another torrid day on the famed links and even his decision to restore the putter he ditched for Thursday’s opening round failed to produce results.
His outward 37, scarred by two double bogeys, saw him sink down the field to finish on three-under in a tie for 23rd.
South Korea’s Jin Jeong made sure of the Silver Medal for leading amateur, signing off in style with an eagle two at the 72nd hole for a share of 14th place.