Wednesday, 21 July 2010
As it all sinks in for Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion might be rethinking his attachment to his nickname, but he would do well to remember that Shrek got the girl and lived happily ever after!
Until the sequels came along, that is... but maybe the good news for Oosthuizen is precisely that there was a Shrek 2. And 3. And 4.
American golfing writers are falling over themselves to contextualise his victory, and in the process failing dismally to do so with any degree of grace, knowledge of the game or of Oosthuizen himself.
The assumption that a player who was ranked 54th in the world before this victory had no right to even walk the same fairways as Tiger Woods or any other Americans runs deep through much of the writing emanating from the United States.
Jim Gorant, senior editor of Sports Illustrated said: “There’s a reason many people had never heard of him. We’ve yet to see him do it consistently in a lot of different circumstances.”
And then he betrayed his prejudices by the argument that’s all too easy to make and not sustainable given the facts: “He got the best of the wind this week and putted well on uncharacteristically slow greens. Can he do that on fast greens?”
Oosthuizen played what was in front of him: Wind in the afternoon of round one; rain in the morning of round two, and wind in his final few holes; and the worst of the wind in rounds three and four (he was last out, remember?)
And the greens were the same for everyone.
Then Gorant descends to a level of argument which holds that you’re no golfer till you’ve won on the PGA Tour: “Can he play target golf on longer courses with hot, still conditions?”
Perhaps he missed the stats from the Open: Louis was number one in driving accuracy, number four in driving distance at 319.4 yards and number three in putting.
He hit 60 of 72 greens in regulation and three-putted just twice during the tournament. And there was the small matter of the fact that he took fewer strokes than anyone else to get the ball in the hole, which is kind of the point of golf.
Target golf in hot, still conditions? Bring it on, because it will be more fun than target golf in cold, windy conditions.
And Gorant concludes with the only reasonable part of his evaluation: “I’m in wait-and-see mode for now, but he could be a Zach Johnson like player over time.”
Zach Johnson won the 2007 Masters, remember. And here’s a partial list of US players who won the Open Championship only once for their only major title, and curious minds want to know if Gorant thinks any of these are “Zach Johnson like”:
· Mark Calcavecchia
· Stewart Cink
· Ben Curtis
· David Duval
· Tom Lehman
· Justin Leonard
· Tom Weiskopf
Predictably, European writers have been more generous in their praise. Said James Corrigan of The Independent: “Credit should truly be given to Oosthuizen in abundance for a display of such all-round brilliance in both the swing and the mind that had it been produced by Woods it would have been hailed as one of his famous command performances.”
He continues: “Yes, so much about Oosthuizen’s week with the immortals insists he will be anything but the one-time golfing wonder in this all-time golfing wonderland. He is only 27, hits it a solid mile and has the putting game and nerve to grace any stage.”
Those are just samplings of the reactions to Oosthuizen’s win on either side of the Atlantic, and, of course, there are exceptions to the rule they illustrate.
Perhaps of more significance is what his vanquished peers said after he won.
Lee Westwood was almost effusive: “I remember watching him hit balls on the range in Dubai, and he’s very impressive. He flights the ball very well when it gets windy. I can see why he’s doing well this week. Has good penetration on his iron shots, and obviously got a lot of bottle.”
Rory McIlroy expressed real fondness for him. “We’ve all known Louis has been a great player for a long time, hits it great, technically very sound, does everything very well. I think he needed that win early in the season on the European Tour to give him that little bit of confidence to challenge for the biggest events,” he said. “He's one of the nicest guys out here, he genuinely is. I think everyone would be happy if he held onto this lead.”
“We’ve known for a long time that he’s extremely talented,” said US Open champion Graeme McDowell. “For a long time he worked with the same coach, Pete Cowen, as I do. We’ve known for a long time how good he is. He’s just been one of these guys that seems to underachieve somehow. He’s got all the tools.”
“He is a good solid player,” said Simon Dyson. “I’ve played quite a bit with him, I’ve seen him in Europe. He has always had a beautiful swing and this week he’s been holing the putts pretty good. He is definitely a worthy champion – he is a fantastic player and a lovely lad as well.”
“He has a really fantastic golf swing,” said Ian Poulter. “Am I surprised that he’s won? Not in the slightest. He has been an underachiever but he's a great ball striker and once he holed a few putts he really got it going.”
He’s not going to be able to practice enough when he steps onto the range at this week’s Scandinavian Masters in Sweden.
That’s because his fellow pros will be so busy congratulating him. Maybe he should record those conversations and let some US writers hear them – in time for the sequel.
+ Sunshine Tour Media Release