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Ken Borland



Oosthuizen shows the pedigree to jack up his game when required 0

Posted on December 11, 2023 by Ken

Louis Oosthuizen finally gets his hands on the trophy at Leopard Creek.
Photo: Ken Borland

When Charl Schwartzel drew level again on the 12th hole, Louis Oosthuizen knew his great friend and rival was not going to go away in the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, and he realised he would have to jack up his game if he hoped to win the famous Leopard Creek trophy for the first time.

Showing his big game temperament, Oosthuizen played beautifully through the middle of the back nine, reeling off three straight birdies from the 13th hole. It meant he went into the daunting last three holes with a three-stroke lead, and he needed it in the sodden conditions.

Finding a fairway bunker on the par-four 17th led to a bogey, and then his drive on the par-five 18th found the water down the right, creating an exciting finish as four-time champion Schwartzel was just off the green in two. Oosthuizen laid up his third well, and then nervelessly rolled in a tricky 18-foot putt for par to seal a two-stroke victory, his closing 69 taking him to 18-under-par.

“I knew I had to play well because Charl plays very well around this place and Christiaan Bezuidenhout started well too. Fortunately I made a few putts in the middle that let me get ahead because this is such a good finishing course, you need to hold on and it’s tough to be aggressive,” Oosthuizen said after his first win since his memorable SA Open triumph in 2018.

“I was a bit in-between what to do off the 18th tee and I had to make par the hard way, because Charl hit a good drive and I knew he would go for the green in two. It wasn’t much fun after that tee-shot, but it feels good now!”

After Sunday’s play was limited to just seven holes for the leading group by thundershowers, Schwartzel started shakily on Monday with bogeys on the par-four eighth and 10th holes. But he would trade those in for back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th holes to draw level again. But six successive pars then followed as Schwartzel was just not quite sharp enough to put more pressure on Oosthuizen, closing with a 71 for 16-under-par.

Moving beyond the ins and outs of their respective final rounds, perhaps Oosthuizen was due to win at Leopard Creek, given his pedigree and how badly he wanted the title after twice finishing second.

“Since first playing in this event in 2004, this has been one of the tournaments I’ve always wanted to win, but it took me a while. Like the SA Open, which was my last win, I had to wait a while and now I’m very happy. It’s really special to win here, maybe I should play more in South Africa.

“I was very focused because I really wanted to win and I felt my game was good enough to do it and I’ve been putting well enough. But it was just a fight and I had to make it count with the putter in the end,” Oosthuizen said.

A beautifully curled-in 35ft birdie putt on the 14th hole was the 41-year-old’s highlight on the greens on the final day.

Bezuidenhout shot a four-under 68 to ensure he was always a lurking presence in the final round, eventually finishing third on 14-under-par.

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