Driving accuracy lifts Oosthuizen to 1st major

Louis Oosthuizen

Louis Oosthuizen

Our annual number-crunching package looks at players who made significant moves – up or down – during the past year in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index.

Ranking/movement: 71 (+34)

Why the rise? Louis Oosthuizen became known as King Louis upon his crowning as British Open champion at St. Andrews. His second victory of the season marked the culmination of a great year.

Only one thing in Oosthuizen’s statistics jumps out to suggest why this year’s performance was better than last year: driving accuracy.

Number crunching

Check back to Golfweek.com every day through the end of the year to take a look at players who made significant moves – up and down – in 2010.

Oosthuizen, 28, went from hitting 56.24 percent of fairways in ’09, ranking him 162nd on the European Tour, to 65.18 percent this year (37th). In his previous six seasons, he had ranged between 48.54 percent and 57.96 percent. .

The South African’s usual length off the tee (he ranked 27th at 294.4 yards), when coupled with his improved accuracy, was a lethal combination. Nowhere was that more evident than at St. Andrews, where he ranked first in driving accuracy and fourth in driving distance on his way to a seven-stroke victory.

Oosthuizen says: “The weirdest thing is that nothing in my game really changed from last year to this year. It’s strange. . . . yet I’ve won twice and one of those wins was a major.”

– Alistair Tait

• • •

Soren Hansen

Ranking/movement: 179 (-162)

Why the fall? Denmark’s Soren Hansen was looking at 2010 to build on three great seasons that had made him one of Europe’s most consistent performers. Yet, the 36-year-old went backward.

After years of respectability since joining the tour in 1999, Hansen finished eighth in earnings in 2007. He followed with 14th and 22nd on the money list in ’08 and ’09, respectively.

During that stretch, Hansen won the ’07 Mercedes Benz Championship; played on the 2008 European Ryder Cup team; and earned more than 1 million euros per season.

No wonder he was looking forward to this year. Now, he just wants to put it behind him.

The Dane had three top-10 finishes in his first three starts, then notched a third place in the Malaysian Open. Since then, nothing but mediocrity.

Hansen did have a major off-course distraction. The Danish government hit him with a fine of $1.2 million for allegedly evading taxes between 2002 and ’06, a subject he refuses to discuss. Hansen lives in Monaco and claimed he was not liable for taxes in his homeland, but his plea fell on deaf ears.

On the course, there wasn’t much difference between many of his stats.

What does stand out is his stroke average. Hansen was nearly a stroke higher per round this year than last. He averaged 71.33 this year as opposed to 70.53 last year. That’s 3.2 shots more per tournament.

Hansen says: “It’s been so frustrating on the greens it’s been unbelievable. My long game hasn’t been all that bad, but then when I get onto the greens, the lack of confidence in putting leaks into all other parts of the game. I am just looking forward to wiping the slate clean . . . and starting afresh next year.”

– Alistair Tait

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