South African Oosthuizen closing in on runner-up Grand Slam

Jul 20, 2015, 2:06 PM
United States’ Zach Johnson, second from right, shakes hands with South Africa’ Louis O...
United States' Zach Johnson, second from right, shakes hands with South Africa' Louis Oosthuizen, left, alongside Australia's Marc Leishman after he won a playoff after the final round of the British Open Golf Championship at the Old Course, St. Andrews, Scotland, Monday, July 20, 2015. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Louis Oosthuizen is closing in on a career Grand Slam of sorts.

One he’d rather not have.

For the third time in his career — and second time in a month — the South African was runner-up in a major championship. This time, it was the British Open, where he lost to Zach Johnson in a playoff Monday evening.

Marc Leishman, an Australia with only one PGA Tour win, also got in the four-hole playoff. A bogey at No. 1 essentially ended his chances.

Oosthuizen took it right to the end, misreading putts on the final two holes — one from 5 feet on the 17th hole, the other from 12 feet at the 18th — that could have forced sudden death with Johnson.

“It’s never nice to lose a playoff,” Oosthuizen moaned. “He left the door open on 17 (where Johnson made a bogey), and I didn’t take advantage of it.”

Oosthuizen lost a playoff at the Masters three years ago, when Bubba Watson pulled off a ridiculous hook from the pine straw on the second extra hole.

Almost a month ago to the day, Oosthuizen was beaten in regulation by Jordan Spieth at the U.S. Open, a tournament best remembered for Dustin Johnson’s three-putt on the 72nd hole when he had a chance to win.

That sent Spieth to the home of golf with two straight major titles and the Grand Slam still in play.

The young Texan missed out on the playoff by a single stroke, ending his bid to become the first player to sweep all four majors in a year.

Instead, it’s Oosthuizen who heads to Whistling Straits next month with his own little bit of history on the line — the PGA Championship is the only major in which he has not finished second.

“I’ll take a lot out of this week,” he insisted, looking for a bright side. “It’s not first, but I’ll take it.”

At least Oosthuizen has a major title. He won the British Open in 2010, the last time it was held at St. Andrews.

He’s shown more than enough game to win another.

At Chambers Bay, Oosthuizen rallied brilliantly from an opening 77, posting three straight rounds in the 60s but coming up short again, one stroke behind. In his return to St. Andrews, he was right there again for the claret jug.

Just a little short again.

On a leaderboard dominated by Spieth and a bunch of major winners, Leishman was the definite outsider. He had the tournament in his grasp, going to the 16th hole with a one-stroke lead only to miss a 4-foot putt, ending a streak of 34 straight holes without a bogey going back to the second round.

Leishman managed to par the last two holes for a 6-under 66 and a spot the playoff, but another short putt lipped out on No. 1, a hole that Johnson and Oosthuizen birdied for a two-shot swing. The Aussie was essentially out of it after that, his hopes completely dashed with another bogey at No. 17 — the third extra hole.

“I was definitely happy with the way I played and gave it my best shot,” said Leishman, who also turned in the best round of the week, a third-round 64. “Zach just played really well in the playoff, and I didn’t have my best stuff.”

Leishman won’t fret over the loss for long, not after what he went through earlier this year. His wife, Audrey, was stricken with a life-threatening illness, forcing him to drop out of the Masters. She’s better now, and her husband has a new perspective.

“Yeah, mate, I’m happy,” he said. “I can go home tomorrow and hug Audrey and (their two young) boys and celebrate a little bit. It would have been nice to have the claret jug to drink out of to celebrate, but I’ll find something else.”

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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