x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Oosthuizen is my kind of guy

Forget his modest placing in the Race to Dubai – we’re talking about King Louis of St Andrews, the Open champion.

Louis Oosthuizen, the British Open champion, during the third round in Dubai yesterday.
Louis Oosthuizen, the British Open champion, during the third round in Dubai yesterday.

In today's instalment of Whose Golf Season Would You Take If You Could Take Only One? I'll take the guy in 10th place overall.

As the globetrotting European Tour season lurches to its exhausted close today at the Earth Course of Jumeirah Golf Estates, I'll take the guy so far behind Martin Kaymer in the Race to Dubai that nobody has mentioned him in the Race to Dubai.

I'll take the guy with the mere €1.77 million (Dh8.6m) in winnings - I think I could get by with that - even though it lags so far behind you barely can see Kaymer's €3.28m from there. I'll take the guy coming off the 18th green yesterday with a gaggle of autograph-centric children shrieking his name after a nondescript 70 for a nondescript joint ninth place in the Dubai World Championship.

"Yeah, it's a bit disappointing," he said of his round.

That's my guy.

"Just didn't really expect much from the week anyway," he said.

Yeah, that's him.

I do realise that by taking his season I take also the tetchy ligaments in his left ankle. I understand he shot a buck during the South African hunting season in September, and that as he began pursuing the wounded animal he tripped into a pothole. I know he strapped the injury so tightly he felt as if he had "cement" on it, and that he continued hunting for two more days, if only from a pickup truck.

That's fine with me, as for his season I will take those ligaments plus the inert October of rehab and, besides, as he said yesterday: "I haven't felt it in three days which is good; I still do a bit of stretching on the course."

I also know that when his bank account received a staggering direct-deposit in midsummer, he up and bought a tractor, and that while I personally would not buy a tractor, I still would take his season, his ligaments and his tractor.

Kaymer has had an awesome year, yes, with four titles hiking his total to eight, a first major title in the US PGA Championship and the Race to Dubai title nearly sewn up. His last five majors read like a sonnet: tie for sixth, cut, tie for eighth, tie for seventh, first. My guy has played 10 majors, missed eight cuts and finished 73rd once.

Call me a sap, but I still would take the 2010 of Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen, every last syllable of it, and for its Sunday, July 18 alone, as he got the practically celestial experience of walking up No 18 at St Andrews with a British Open lead so gaping he could not have blown it playing the rest of the hole with a wooden spoon.

"The whole week was just really nice," Louis Oosthuizen said yesterday near season's end, his St Andrews 65-67-69-71 being the reason some spectators at Jumeirah chant "Loooieeee" from the No 18 bleachers.

Here is a 28-year-old who for all anyone knows might not ascend again, though he had three top-10 finishes since July before he went buck-chasing. His 73-66-70 here has qualified as heady in his first proper tournament post-pothole, even as he feels he might have drifted irredeemably behind leader Ian Poulter.

Still, he got to fly home to South Africa in July to find a banner his parents had crafted on their farm reading, "The Home Of The Claret Jug." Try topping that. He got to watch a British Open replay with friends a week later and to find that he did not appear as tense on screen as he would have expected. Try trumping that.

Since then, he has watched that replay "a few times", he said yesterday.

"It's just nice watching it, how I handled myself. I think just when you get in that situation, you see how you handle yourself, and I know now I can handle it and I would like to be in that situation more."

That would be valuable comprehension for a ruthless sport, so he neither laughs nor cries nor toasts when he watches, and he even says, "I think I've settled into it, what happened", focusing "on next season", even when this season contained the moment "walking down 18 knowing I had very big lead and was going to win the Open".

Kaymer's year would be swell. Lee Westwood's year, with his hard-earned ascent to No 1 on Earth, would be swell. By a smidgen, though, I will take Oosthuizen's year for its St Andrews alone.

Besides, I could always sell the tractor.