Louis Oosthuizen ended a nearly three-year drought as he romped to a six-shot victory to claim his first South African Open title at Randpark on Sunday, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Oosthuizen marked his return to the national championship with a stunning display in the final round to erase the pain of letting the Nedbank Golf Challenge slip from his grasp less than a month ago.
The round wasn’t without drama, with his three-shot lead reduced to one after starting par-bogey-bogey. That stretch, combined with Branden Grace storming out of the blocks had fans excited at the prospect of a high-profile Sunday shootout.
Grace, who had five birdies and a bogey in his first seven holes, faded from the picture as quickly as he arrived, with three drops in his next four holes.
As the birdies dried up, it was a bogey on the 72nd hole which would’ve frustrated him most. That mistake will leave him with work to do to punch his ticket to The Masters and The Open when a par would’ve sufficed.
With his nearest rival stuttering ahead and England’s Matt Wallace enduring a frustrating morning, it was Oosthuizen who burst into life on the back of some precision stroke-making and a red-hot putter.
Birdies at 4, 6 and 7 sent him clear of the field before he muted the competition by driving the par 4 ninth. A two-putt birdie was backed up by a consolidation run consisting of four pars as no player managed to put a dent into his lead.
The lead then became insurmountable with an exquisite eagle on the 14th after a sublime approach to tap-in range.
Not content with a six-shot lead, he would birdie 16, which released a fist pump and a big, beaming smile.
With the job done, a bogey at the par 3 17th followed when an aggressive line saw him find the greenside bunker after coming up a fraction short. He gave his caddie a wry smile, as for the first time since the third tee he failed to deliver excellence.
A steady drive off the last and an iron into the heart of the green granted him a slow walk up to his coronation as king of the South African Open; a tournament he has craved since before his breakthrough Major performance at St Andrews in 2010.
The win moves Oosthuizen to 25th in the world, a number that could be even lower this time next week, since he heads to Thursday’s start at Leopard Creek the standout favourite to win the Dunhill Links Championship.
Jovan Rebula, nephew of Ernie Els and winner of The Amateur earlier this year, finished as the leading amateur after a round of 69 helped him into a share of 24th place on six-under par.
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