The 2010 British Open champion dishes on life since St. Andrews, his beautiful swing and a hilarious Claret Jug mishap.
Recent history has shown that many different golfers can win the Open Championship—legends like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson; journeymen like Todd Hamilton and Stewart Cink; young studs like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. All have hoisted the Claret Jug, as well as South African Louis Oosthuizen.
Next summer will mark the 10-year anniversary of Oosthuizen’s commanding Open victory: a seven-stroke triumph over Lee Westwood at St. Andrews. SI.com’s Ryan Asselta recently caught up with the smooth swinging South African for a quick interview, where he talked about his 2010 British Open title, a mishap with the Claret Jug and his four other runner-up finishes in major championships.
Ryan Asselta: Your golf swing is wildly regarded as the smoothest swing on the PGA Tour. Does the swing feel as good as it looks?
Louis Oosthuizen: (Laughs) Not always. It’s a rhythmic swing. I've always been big on rhythm so I'll know exactly when I'm not doing it great. My upper body and lower body don’t always work together so I always go back to my little rhythm drills that I have and just get the rhythm going.
One of my favorite swings of all time, rhythm wise, is Fred Couples. He never looks like he’s in any kind of a rush with his swing. That’s something I’ve always tried to do. Keep rhythm and work on a few mechanical things.
RA: Is there one swing thought that you've had consistently over the years?
LO: I usually try to sync up my lower and upper body on the range. A big thing that goes wrong with me is that I start my downswing with my, lower body first and then I get a little stuck behind and get little out of sorts. If I’m swinging it good I usually start the two at the exact same time.
RA: We’re coming up on the 10-year anniversary of your British open title at St. Andrews. How have you changed over the past decade?
LO: I’d say I’m a lot wiser on the golf course. I’m probably not that young guy who drives it all of the time and goes for everything. Although the way today’s game is played, you do have to take out the driver everywhere.
I’m definitely on the course knowing now that losing your mind, or losing your cool is not going to help you shoot a better score. I’m better about hitting a bad shot and moving on with it. I used to get down quite a lot on the golf course when I’d make a mistake. I think over the years I’ve matured. Some days I wish I were that 27-year-old not thinking about anything! Now I do tend to think about a lot more things.
RA: You led that ‘10 Open Championship over the last 48 holes, giving new meaning to the idea of closing out at a tournament. How is that as a golfer…playing with the lead and being the hunted for two-plus days?
LO: Well, St. Andrews just really suits me. It helped that I had figured out how to play the golf course, and how to play my little cut around the golf course, especially with the lead.
I wouldn’t say I tried to play any differently. I tried to drive it down the left side and cut it back to the fairway. The only thing maybe you think about is not taking on some of the pins. Go for the fat part of the green. That worked for me since I was putting it well all week.
If it was any other golf course, I think I’d have been more nervous playing with the lead but I felt so comfortable around that golf course, it really didn’t matter to me.
RA: As far as the Open Championship as a whole, what is your favorite aspect of playing in the tournament?
LO: Oh, definitely the Claret Jug. Knowing it's the trophy in golf and the one you want to get your hands on. Knowing it’s golf the way it was intended to be played at the beginning. It’s completely different than any other major. I love the look of the Open Championship. The browner, crustier, more difficult the golf course looks, the better.
RA: Do you remember doing anything fun with the Claret Jug when you had it for that one year?
LO: I was scared to do anything with it in the beginning. Eventually I celebrated with a lot of friends when I went back to South Africa in December and that was the first time we all drank out of the jug. We all drank wine out of it.
I was scared something would happen to it. I went to Wentworth in early 2011 and they asked us to bring the Claret Jug. At that point, European Tour players held all four major titles. So the Claret Jug was on display at Wentworth and I asked them if I could bring it to my house one evening. Charl Schwartzel was the reigning Masters champion and I wanted to get a picture with Charl and the green jacket and me with the Claret Jug.
So they brought it to the house and I took it out of the case and placed it on the table and something looked odd. I looked closer and it was bent completely! It was bent at an angle to the left!
I’ve never been so nervous in my life when I phoned Peter Dawson (Then head of the R&A) and said that the jug was bent. Peter just laughed and said not to worry about it, “A lot worse has happened to that trophy”.
I don’t know what happened to it, but they fixed it.
RA: In addition to winning the Open Championship, you’ve had second-place finishes in four other majors. Two of them you lost in playoffs, the 2012 Masters and the 2015 British Open. How do you view those runner-ups? Proud that you were that close? Or upset that they were missed opportunities?
LO: I think it would have been worse if I had zero major titles. Knowing I’ve got the Open at St. Andrews takes a lot of pressure off me. If I get another one, great. I know I’ve got the game to do it.
I think Augusta was a tough one to get over for a while because I played really good. I didn’t do anything wrong really. I was just outplayed by Bubba at the end.
At St Andrews in 2015 I made a mistake with a three putt on the 17th hole during the playoff. Otherwise I would have had a putt on 18 in the playoff to win. If I make a mistake like that, it’s almost easier to get over because I know it was MY mistake.
RA: The Open Championship holds a special place in your heart. Are there other non-major events that are your favorite throughout the year?
LO: I love the majors, but they do take a lot out of you. Some of my favorite tournaments follow the majors, like the Travelers after the U.S. Open.
I think a major can be such a mess of a mental week and everyone just wants to sort of just take a week and not really do anything.
You kind of exhale at an event like that where they take care of everything for you, and you just go and play golf on a great course. A course where there are plenty of birdies out there and you’re not scrambling to make pars. It’s quite the relief.
RA: Being a South African, tell me about the influence Gary Player has had on you in your life as a golfer.
LO: You know, Mr. Player was well before me. The guys I looked up to growing up were Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
But knowing the history of Mr. Player and getting to meet him and then play with him during my first Masters back in 2009 was unbelievable. He’s an amazing guy, with not only what he continues to do for our sport but for our country as well.
At his age, he still has so much passion for the game. I was recently on the range down in Florida and there he is still playing the game at 83 years old. I can only hope to be still playing the game at 60, let a one his age.
The shape that he is in is unbelievable. He still asks me if I’ve done my hundred crunches. I tell him no. The man is a machine!