24 February 2008
The immaculately groomed Woodmead Course at Country Club Johannesburg hosted one of the Sunshine Tour’s flagship events – the PGA Championship. The tournament was founded in 1965 and its trophy bore the names Gary Player, Denis Hutchinson, Dale Hayes, Ernie Els and Nick Price.
Louis Oosthuizen, an up-and-coming 25-year-old on the European Tour, returned to South Africa to compete. His distinctive visor cap took a back seat to a world-class swing, which mesmerised the crowds, and the Mossel Bay upstart carded rounds of 66 and 63 to make the weekend on 15 under par, five shots clear of second-placed Warren Abery.
Professionals will tell you it’s tough to follow up a low score with another decent round, but Oosthuizen made it look easy that Saturday eight years ago. He birdied both par-fives on the front side to turn in three under par on ‘Moving Day’, then shrugged off a bogey at the 10th and closed out with an eagle at the par-five 18th. He signed for 66 and a nine-shot lead going into the final round.
The 1.78m tall golfer had broken into the top 100 in the world for the first time three weeks earlier and the sky seemed to be his limit.
Sunday dawned and it was time for ‘King Louis’ to begin his reign. He birdied the first three holes out to leave his playing partner Hennie Otto fighting for second place.
Oosthuizen pencilled in further birdies at the fifth and sixth, despite the kikuyu rough that had whittled fairways down, and made it clear that he would not be caught. Prophecies of a major victory began to emerge when he reached the halfway house in 31 blows.
Oosthuizen and company played off the back tees coming down the stretch at Woodmead in 2008, but that did little to prevent his dominance. His fourth and final bogey of the week came at the 11th hole, but he recovered with birdies at the 13th and 14th.
King Louis was unable to make another red number down the stretch and finished on 28 under par, 14 strokes clear of runner-up Otto. It remains the largest margin of victory in the history of the Sunshine Tour.
His total was one stroke shy of Mark McNulty’s record low score of 29 under par at Royal Swazi Sun in 1987, which David Frost matched at the 1994 PGA Championship.
South Africa had a new icon to revel in, and two years later he fulfilled the Major predictions with a victory at the 2010 Open Championship.
HOW THEY FINISHED
Louis Oosthuizen 260 -28
Hennie Otto 274 -14
Jake Roos 275 -13
Charl Schwartzel 276 -12
Thabang Simon 277 -11
Adilson da Silva 278 -10
Ross Wellington 278 -10
Alan McLean 278 -10
Warren Abery 278 -10