Louis Oosthuizen started the week Louie Whost-hay-zen, emphasis on the Who? He ended it not with question mark but an exclamation point. In between were a lot of vowels and birdies and a sense that this guy isn’t a one-shot wonder.
First of all, he’s only 27. Second, he has one of the best swings in golf, a remarkably efficient and rhythmic motion. Third, he has gained the confidence he has been lacking.
His seven-stroke victory at the British Open prompts the question: How is it possible we didn’t know about him before?
Well, golf self-esteem and ambition are the reasons.
He’s loaded with enough talent to become a superstar. The question is whether he has the inner drive. He’s a laid-back guy from South Africa. His peers wonder why he hasn’t done more by now. Graeme McDowell went so far to call him an “underachiever.”
A one-shot wonder? I don’t think so, not with all that game. But how far he goes will depend more of those beautiful drives.
• The day before the Open, I couldn’t have identified the likable Oosthuizen in a lineup. Wouldn’t have known him had he bought me a Guinness or bit my ear in a pub.
For this particular golf observer, the last time Someone Who Didn’t Register on My Radar at Week’s Start won a major probably was John Daly in 1991.
Jean Van de Velde almost qualified.
And, come to think of it, maybe Paul Lawrie did.
Point is, a winner from far left field is rare. But it might become more common, deep as fields are.
• Somebody asked the other day whether Tiger Woods will be a dominant golfer again.
Yes, once he re-attaches his head to his body. Woods, in effect, has been Humpty Dumpty. He sat on the high wall for 13 1/2 years, then had a great fall and now is trying to piece everything back together again.
We saw signs of the old, dominant Woods when he shot 66 in the U.S. Open third round. But since his sex scandal broke and his family life crumbled, Woods hasn’t been able to string together good rounds for an extended period of time, such as 72 holes.
He’s gone from Mr. All the Time to Mr. Every Now and Then.
At the moment, he’s just another guy on Tour. But he’ll get back to winning, probably soon, given that he’ll be playing some of his pet playgrounds during the next couple of months – Firestone, TPC Boston, Cog Hill and East Lake.
Those venues likely will help boost his game and confidence. Whistling Straits, site of the PGA Championship, figures to be a more difficult test for him.
As Phil Mickelson said at St. Andrews, Woods’ game will turn upward again. We just don’t know exactly when.
The question is, Will he be as dominant as he once was? I don’t think that will happen. He’s 34 and his body (read: leg) and mind (read: personal problems) aren’t as good as they once were. Nothing much about Woods has surprised me over the years when it comes to golf achievement, but I’d be surprised if he gets back to winning 30 percent of majors and 50 percent of Tour starts. That said, I still think he’ll break Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.
Piecing his game back together is taking time because he has gone through a self-created grinder in full public view. Some people who go through divorce and go cry in a corner or in the shower. We can only imagine what’s going through his mind and soul while playing through embarrassment, guilt and shame. And while doing so, he finished fourth in the season’s first two majors and had a top 25 at the British.
• Five of the past six major championships, and nine of 15, have been won by first-time major winners.
Good for golf, or bad?
Well, ideally, you’d like to see the world’s top players dueling at the top every time. But the creation of new stars doesn’t hurt. It beats Woods by five or more.
• Of the winners of the two summer major Opens, I think Oosthuizen has more talent than McDowell. But at this stage, McDowell, three years older, is more accomplished and has more drive.
• At the moment, European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie would have to choose from three of these players: Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Sergio Garcia, Alvaro Quiros and Edoardo Molinari.
At once that’s a tough job and an easy one. He can’t go wrong, but picking only three carries some pain.
But there are five weeks of qualifying left. Monty’s best-case scenario is for 3-4 players currently occupying automatic slots to slip down. The current 6-9 are Martin Kaymer, Francesco Molinari, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Ross McGowan.
• At the advice of a mental coach, longtime scatterbrain Oosthuizen put a red dot on his glove and looked down at it before hitting shots. The dot served as a trigger to focus and block out extraneous thoughts.
As someone with the symptoms of advanced ADD, I believe the chances are decent I’ll have a dot on my glove next time I play.
Just haven’t picked out the color yet.
Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.