Saturday, July 17, 2010

Holding It Together

18 more holes. That is it. 18 more holes and a guy named Louis Oosthuizen will walk away St. Andrews with the Claret Jug and a dominating performance the likes of Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo.

He isn't a name on the PGA Tour. Hell, he's hardly a name on the European Tour. One win, coming this year, and a handful of good finishes, but never a good finish in a major (only one cut prior to this) and a lot of question marks. Most of those were answered on Saturday, when Oosthuizen shook off a three-putt bogey on the first hole and made four birdies the next 17 holes, without a bogey, and posted his third straight round in the 60s.

None of that really matters, though. We've seen plenty of guys play well for 54 holes. They don't get their name etched in silver forever. That's reserved for the guys that can close, and no matter the sizable lead he's made for himself, he still has to close this thing out.

So the question remains this; can a guy that has never even sniffed this type of situation close it out? Can a guy that is nicknamed Shrek claim an Open Championship at the most famous piece of land in the world?

Tradition says no. Too many times we've seen guys like this go into the final round with a lead and falter. Just one month ago, an American just a year younger than Oosthuizen had a big lead at the U.S. Open, but couldn't keep it together at Pebble Beach. It has absolutely nothing to do with your golf swing or your putting stroke or your club selection. It has everything to do with the most important six inches in golf, and that's the area between your ears. The first tee shot won't tell us much, but the decision making throughout the front nine will. Is he going to play aggressive? Will he let the others come to him? Can he continue to make the two and three footers for par that he left himself all day Saturday?

Experience says yes. Oosthuizen seems to play well in final rounds of tournaments. His final round average this season on the European Tour is 69, and he's had only one round all year over 71 when he played the fourth round. He navigated his third round at St. Andrews like a veteran, even when his playing partner that already has a Claret Jug was putting together a round of hockey sticks.

The final 18 holes will decide this, as it always does, but I think he can do it. Oosthuizen has made a believer out of me. Hopefully he can say the same thing.

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