British Open Results Reviewed
MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:
All the big names were at the British Open in St. Andrews in Scotland this weekend, but it was a relative unknown from South Africa who won yesterday. In fact, many people still have trouble pronouncing his name. So, we've called NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman for a little help. Good morning, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Okay. Over to you: tell us who was it who won?
GOLDMAN: You don't want to take a stab?
KELLY: I may later.
GOLDMAN: Okay. We're going to go with Louis - that's the first name -Oosthuizen.
KELLY: Louis Oosthuizen.
GOLDMAN: Louis Oosthuizen, yeah. It just rolls off the tongue. The pronunciation of his name actually became a running joke at St. Andrews after Louis - we'll call him - took the lead on the seventh hole of the second round Friday. And it was much less of a joke after he held the lead from that point to the end of the tournament yesterday - dominating performance.
It's a name not a lot of golf fans outside of Europe had heard. Chances are good you'll hear it more. There were a number of players at St. Andrews who said they were not surprised by his performance and really, that it was just a matter of time before he emerged to do what he did this weekend.
KELLY: Well, and I want to ask you more about him in a second. But first, I mean, worth noting another big success for South Africa, and this, of course, comes right off the back of a successful World Cup. Quite impressive, really, for a country that was ostracized during the apartheid era.
GOLDMAN: Absolutely. You know, it was not lost on a lot of people the obviously close relationship between Oosthuizen, who is white, and his long-time caddy, who is black. They talked strategy in Afrikaans, they embraced after the victory, and they both noted the victory came on the same day as Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday. And Oosthuizen said he was thinking about Mandela as he walked down the 18th fairway at the end of his round yesterday. Of course, a seven-stroke lead gives you the luxury to do that.
And then at the start of his speech during the trophy presentation, he said what Mandela has done for South Africa is unbelievable, so it was a really nice moment.
KELLY: And what about how Oosthuizen - I hope I got that right - how he actually played. I mean, he was ranked 54th in the world, I understand, going into this. With this win he's bumped up to number 15.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, he was phenomenal. He drove the ball so well. He just kept hitting the ball so solidly and putting well and making big shots throughout. And, you know, so many people kept waiting for his collapse during the weekend as the pressure had to be growing on him, but it never happened. He was so cool and calm. He mastered the stiff winds at St. Andrews.
The downside was no one else played that way. No one made a serious run at the lead. For those who like their major tournaments dramatic, it was definitely not.
But Oosthuizen's engaging personality and his story helped. He's 27, the son of a farmer. He got a big assist from fellow South African golfer Ernie Els, who has a foundation that finds talented golfers who don't have a lot of money and he helps them out. Oosthuizen started with that foundation at 17 and really credits that for where he is now.
KELLY: Tom, what about the name you have to ask about, Tiger Woods. He started the Open playing pretty well. What happened?
GOLDMAN: He was in the hunt after the first round. It looked like predictions that he'd win at St. Andrews would become a reality. He was driving the ball well, hitting fairway woods and irons well, but he was terrible on the greens. He just couldn't sink putts, and that's really strange 'cause he's always been such a phenomenal putter. He finished tied for 23rd. He has still not won a tournament in the eight events he's played since coming back from the infamous sex scandal.
He's still a crowd attraction, but he no longer intimidates fellow golfers. It's not longer Tiger Woods and everyone else on the Tour. Those days appear to be over.
KELLY: All right. Thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
KELLY: That's NPR's Tom Goldman updating us on this weekend's British Open.
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