Those who know Oosthuizen say low-key approach was key to Open victory

Those who know Oosthuizen say low-key approach was key to Open victory

Anna Nordqvist shot 65 in the final round.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Chance Cozby, the director of tour player relations for Ping, was watching TV at 4:30 in the morning on Sunday. A Ping player, Louis Oosthuizen, was looking to win a British Open. The golfer was here in Scotland. Cozby was home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“He’s one of the most relaxed, easy-going people I’ve ever been around,” Cozby said. At the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Oosthuizen put new Ping irons and wedges in his bag. He missed the cut. He didn’t blame the new sticks, and they were still in the bag when he showed up at St. Andrews last week. (More on Oosthuizen’s bag here.)

“He doesn’t know his swing weights, he can’t tell you the dead weight in grams, but he knows what he likes,” Cozby said. “He doesn’t make it too complicated. He and his caddie come to the trailer, hang out, just chatting about this and that.”

What a departure: the elite touring pro who is not super high-maintenance! Chubby Chandler, Oosthuizen’s manager, will tell you the same thing in a different way.

“I’ll tell you when I got nervous,” Chandler told me Sunday night, when it was all over and Oosthuizen had won the Open, on the Old Course, where Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won. Chandler used to play the European tour and now he has a growing sports agency called ISM, which specializes in soccer, cricket and golf. Rory McIlory and Lee Westwood are also represented by ISM.

“On the driving range today he told me, ‘I’m bored.’ He’s about to play for the Open title, and he’s bored! That had me worried a bit. But I realized that’s his way of saying, ‘I’m ready to go.'”

Chandler presents a picture of a golfer who does things his own way.

“He really doesn’t work as hard as others, doesn’t practice as much as others, you might even say he’s lazy, except that he’s doing it the way that works best for him,” Chandler said. In other words, if he spent more time on the range, it might backfire for him. He can miss two or three straight cuts and not panic at all. He knows himself.

Jeff Clause was one of Oosthuizen’s early coaches in South Africa. “He’s the same now as he was when I met him 18 years ago,” Clause told me Sunday. He was in South Africa, watching the golf unfold on TV at his club, the St. Francis Links. “He knows how much his parents sacrificed so that he could play golf. He knows how much Ernie Els’s junior golf foundation helped him. He never forgets.”

James Kamte, a South African touring pro and a friend of Oosthuizen’s, said: “He’s always smiling, always relaxed. He likes his movies and his TV games. He likes being with his wife and his baby.”

Ah, the gift of keeping it simple. Not everybody has it. The new Open champ has it in spades.

“When he was young, playing a lot of match-play golf, he was like all junior golfers, trying to beat his man,” Bertu Nel, the manager of Oosthuizen’s home club, told me. In those days, he wasn’t always so calm. Bags got kicked. Clubs got thrown. “But as he got older, he started playing the course.”

He also had the ability to go very, very low, Nel said. Everyone in South African golf remembers what Louis Oosthuizen did in the South African PGA Championship in 2008 when he decimated the field, shooting 28-under 260.

Now they have a new example, and so does the rest of the world: the 2010 Open at St. Andrews, a seven-shot victory, at 16 under par, from a very cool customer.