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The 149th Open Royal St George's
Louis Oosthuizen
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Consistent challenger looks to scale summit once again
Louis Oosthuizen practice round

Few have been able to match Louis Oosthuizen’s consistency over recent years but that’s little consolation for a player desperate for another taste of glory.

The South African has not won a major since becoming Champion Golfer of the Year at St Andrews in 2010 – though he could hardly have come closer to adding to his tally in the intervening years.

Oosthuizen lost a play-off to Zach Johnson on his return to the Home of Golf in 2015 while this year alone he has recorded back-to-back runners-up finishes at the PGA Championship and US Open – his fifth and sixth second-place berths in all since lifting the Claret Jug 11 years ago.

Not that those will be weighing on his mind when he takes to the first tee in a star-studded group alongside reigning Champion Shane Lowry and tournament favourite Jon Rahm on Thursday morning, with the 38-year-old banking on his ability to put past near-misses behind him.

“I’m trying to prepare the same way I would do for any other major Championship,” he explained at his media conference on Wednesday.

“If it was a case where I completely collapsed in the last four or five holes, it [preparation] would be something I’d look into a lot more.

“But in those two cases [this year] I played really well and was in it the whole time.

“Jon Rahm made two massive putts on 17 and 18 [at the US Open] and you have those tournaments where it’s meant to be for someone. It just wasn’t my time.

“As a sportsperson, you want to win. That’s why you play, you want to lift that trophy and you’ll always be disappointed when you come close.

“I don't think there's one of us out here that goes out and beginning of the week says, ‘I'll take second’.

“You get tournaments where you finish second but you were really never in it, that’s different – if you have a chance to win a tournament and finish second, you’ll always have disappointment.

“In a tournament as massive as a major, coming that close, it definitely sticks with you a bit longer. You just have to get over it and get on with it and see if you can do better next time.”

HISTORY AT ROYAL ST GEORGE’S

The 38-year-old was a convincing winner in 2010, coming home seven shots clear of runner-up Lee Westwood on the Old Course.

His triumph added an extra layer of anticipation to his title defence at Royal St George’s the following year and Oosthuizen admitted the pressure perhaps got the better of him over a weekend which saw him finish outside the top 50.

“I remember being very nervous here in 2011, being the defending champion, and I remember the course playing difficult,” he said.

“That Saturday morning, the rain was coming in sideways – I was just happy making the cut and playing the weekend.

“I didn’t really remember a lot of the holes but over the past couple of days I’ve started remembering some of them and it’s a tough golf course, a very good golf course.

“It’s as tough a first tee shot as there is on the Open rota and when you’re defending champion there’s more on your plate.

“But it’s a great honour to be defending champion and if I was a little older I’d probably have enjoyed it a bit more.”

SOUTH AFRICAN CHARGE

Oosthuizen makes up part of an impressive South African contingent who could all mount a challenge this week, with Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Erik van Rooyen, Branden Grace and Garrick Higgo among those looking to make an impression – not forgetting two-time Champion Golfer of the Year Ernie Els.

“I played yesterday with the SA boys a bit and we have a great bunch of players coming through at the moment,” he said.

“We have a great junior and amateur programme and it’s great to see them coming through. I’m starting to become one of the older ones!

“Seeing Ernie here this week is great. What he’s done for me and my golf and being one of my idols, it’s always nice seeing another South African like that.”

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