Africa’s finest golfers fall short at U.S. Open but spirited show catches the imagination
Harare- Africa’s finest golfers failed, for the 11th straight time, to end the continent’s search for a Major title but their spirited fight at Chambers Bay in the 115th battle for the U.S. Open caught the imagination. Three of them made it into the top 10.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner, produced one of the greatest comebacks in U.S. Open history, battling from a horror first round 77 to put together a pair of 66s on June 19 and 20 and then closing with a 67 but his spectacular effort fell just a stroke short of winner Jordan Spieth.
Oosthuizen birdied six of the last seven holes on a dramatic Sunday 21 June but his four-under par 276 could only give him the runners-up spot, which he shared with American Dustin Johnson, who choked on the final hole, three putting when a birdie would have been enough to win him his first Major title.
Instead, the glory belonged to Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan who also won the Masters at Augusta this year, with America’s latest golfing sensation becoming the youngest U.S. Open winner in 92 years despite having appeared to have self-destructed with a double bogey on the 17th on June 21.
He became the first golfer, since Tiger Woods in 2002, to win the first two Major tournaments and, while it is still early days yet, there is even talk that Spieth could even complete a Grand Slam by winning all four major titles this year with the British Open and the US PGA set to follow.
But while the latest US Open produced another American winner, the South Africans gave their hosts a good fight with Oosthuizen finishing second, Brendan Grace finishing tied fourth after his finest performance in a Major and Charl Schwartzel finishing in seventh place, just three strokes adrift of the winner.
World number one, Rory Mcllroy, finished tied ninth.
Nine-time Major winner, Gary Player, the greatest African golfer of all-time and one of the finest the world has ever seen, was very critical of Chambers Bay, hosting its first U.S. Open, where Tiger Woods imploded in the first two rounds, devoured by the brutality of the golf course on the north western part of the United States.
“The worst golf course I might have ever seen in 63 years as a professional golfer,” Player said on ESPN’s SportsCentre on June 20.
“This golf course here, if you’re a 10-handicap, you couldn’t break 100 if you had the best day of your life.”
Earlier, Player had also told Golf Channel that he could not believe that a Major tournament like the U.S. Open could be played on such a course.
“I’m standing in the most beautiful state in the world, Washington, Seattle, unbelievably beautiful, and we play this U.S. Open, this great championship,” Player said.
“But this has been the most unpleasant golf tournament I’ve seen in my life.
“You know how many divorces a golf course like this could possibly cause? A man comes out here and plays; takes six hours. By the time he gets home, his wife hasn’t seen him all week. She’s got the needle. I feel sorry for him.”
Maybe, that was the reason Woods imploded on day one, shooting his worst round in a Major after opening with an 80 to fall 15 strokes behind the leaders after just 18 holes, while Oosthuizen fared marginally better with his 77 on June 18.
However, while Woods failed to mount a comeback, Oosthuizen did, shooting a 66 on day two and another 66 on day three and a 67 in the final round meant that, despite the horror of his first round, the South African golfer came within one stroke of forcing an 18-hole play-off on June 22.
That Oosthuizen even started with three consecutive bogeys in his first four holes on Sunday, before bouncing back in spectacular fashion to birdie six of the final seven holes, made his 67 look very special and he can only look back and wonder about what might have been.
His birdie at the par four 14th, his wedge shot dropping into the hole, was the highlight of a sensational burst when he birdied five straight holes and pulled himself within striking distance of winning the U.S. Open.
“I started awful,” Oosthuizen told journalists. “I didn’t hit fairways and I couldn’t get to the greens. I had a struggle.”
“I just kept playing. You get rounds like that. I’m proud of myself at the way I came back and kept on playing and knew my game was not far off.
“When I holed the wedge there with 16th and 18th coming up, I knew I might get another eagle and a birdie.
“It’s a great feeling when you get aggressive and putts go in. You sort of forget how you play when you get in that situation of having a chance of winning a Major.
“It was nice being in contention again. I felt very relaxed. I felt eager to get to the next hole and get some birdies. I could have shot a big number. But I fought and had a good week.”
His fellow countryman, Grace, will probably also look back to that disastrous swing, three holes from the end, when he was tied with Spieth at five-under-par and firmly in control of affairs.
Grace’s quest for honours virtually ended on the par-4 16th when his tee shot went out of bounce which meant that he had to start again from the tee, with a two-shot penalty, and while Spieth birdied the hole, it meant that the South African’s birdie attempt was coming from the tee.
But a three-under-par 277 after rounds of 69, 67, 70, 71 represented a great show for the golfer, who plays most of his golf on the European Tour, while compatriot Schwartzel finished a stroke back on two-under-par 278 after rounds of 73, 76, 69, 66.