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At Open, it was all Oosthuizen

South African brings growing confidence to third Masters

Friday, April 01, 2011

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When British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen faces the challenge that is Augusta National Golf Club for the third time, he'll have more confidence on his side.

Louis Oosthuizen carried a four-shot lead into the final round of the British Open and finished seven shots ahead. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

"That will be there," said the 28-year-old South African, who won the British Open at St. Andrews by seven shots last July.

"I think for me the big thing is going into majors now knowing that I can win it, trying to get my game to the best I can get it at that tournament," Oosthuizen said. "I mean, and it just gives you a better -- you've got quite a bit of confidence just teeing it up in any tournament."

He just hopes his game will be as good as his mental frame of mind when he gets to Augusta National.

"I'm looking forward to it," Oosthuizen said. "I'm just trying to get the game sharp. I need to get the game right."

That had been a problem during his first two visits to the Masters Tournament, where he missed the cut both times.

In 2009, he shot 73-77--150. Last year, it was a quick 75-77--152 trip over Augusta National's hills.

Oosthuizen (Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff)

"If you're not playing very well around that course, that's definitely going to bite you," Oosthuizen said. "I think it's a type of course you want to play quite a bit."

Asked which major he'd like to win now, Oosthuizen said, "I think the Masters is always in everyone's mind, the back of their mind after the (British) Open.

"It would be nice getting a green jacket," he added. "But just any of the four events, any of the four majors, is so big. It's what you work for, and I think you don't really want to put it (rank them) one, two, three, four. I just think any of those you would be quite happy with."

Though he had won two European Tour events, he'd made only one cut in eight majors before his British Open victory.

"Well, I mean, my record at the majors weren't too great up until the win," Oosthuizen said.

"Although he'd won a couple of times, he won small events, but still, I knew how much talent the guy has, and for a long time there," said fellow South African Ernie Els, who met Oosthuizen when he went through the Ernie Els Golf Foundation in South Africa.

"I thought long before anybody had heard of him that he was going to be an exceptional player," Els said.

At the British Open, Oosthuizen opened with 65 at the Old Course and was two shots off Rory Mcllroy's lead.

After that, it was all Oosthuizen. He led by five shots after a second-round 67 and carried a four-shot lead into the final round after a third-round 69. A final-round 71 brought him home seven shots clear of Lee Westwood.

"Yeah, it's been great," Oosthuizen said of the reception he's received as a major champion. "Everyone is really nice to me. I think the guys respect any major champion. It was a great week."

He said the victory didn't sink in until he had to sit out nearly six weeks starting in late September after tearing the ligaments in his right ankle during a hunting trip.

He got back on track when he won the European Tour's Africa Open title in South Africa on Jan. 9 in a sudden-death playoff.

"It was a big thing for me because I hadn't won a European Tour event on South African soil yet," he said. "To me, that was one of my goals. It definitely came at a nice time, going into the season on both tours, just to get the confidence up again."

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

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