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Afrikaan dream as Louis Oosthuizen lifts Open Championship at St Andrews

Louis Oosthuizen was set up for his Open Championship-winning round yesterday by a conversation in his native language of Afrikaans with South African compatriot and golfing legend Gary Player, who warned him that the St Andrews crowd would be firmly on the side of his playing partner, Englishman Paul Casey.

On Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday, which also acted as an inspiration for the rank outsider to join the golfing greats who have won the Open at the home of golf, he blew the ineffective Casey and the remainder of the field away to claim the £850,000 top prize by a convincing seven shots.

Then he followed the gesture of Tony Lema, the American who won here in 1964 by calling on champagne for the world’s media. Then it was Champagne Tony and now it is Champagne Louis.

Oosthuizen said: “Gary phoned me this morning and he spoke to me in Afrikaans. He told me to stay calm out there, have a lot of fun, and added that the crowd was probably going to be on Paul’s side. Then he told me the story of when he played against Arnold Palmer when he won his first Masters [in 1961].

“He said they wanted to throw stuff at him, but he was so focused on beating him. It meant a lot to me, him phoning me up. Yeah, he’s just a great guy.”

Oosthuizen told millions of television viewers worldwide about how much it meant to him to win golf’s glittering prize on the birthday of Mandela and talked later of how he discovered that by accident yesterday morning.

“I saw it on the internet and it felt a bit special out there,” he continued. “When I walked down the 18th I was thinking about his birthday. What he has done for our country is unbelievable, so happy birthday to him once again.”

Oosthuizen won the 150th Anniversary Open with a round of one-under-par 71 for a 16-under-par aggregate of 272. He was the first South African to win the Open at St Andrews since Bobby Locke in 1957, and he also joins major-winning South Africans Player, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Trevor Immelman.

Runner-up Lee Westwood, a stablemate of Oosthuizen at the International Sports Management group that also has Els as a client, claimed responsibility for giving the new winner his nickname of Shrek many years ago because of the gap between his two front teeth.

But that was of little concern to Oosthuizen, who has accepted the moniker with good grace. His real name is Lodewicus Theodorus after his grandfather but has always been known as Louis.

“To win an Open Championship is special but to win it at St Andrews is just something you dream about. I’m proud of the way I held my nerves. I knew that I could throw a big lead away,” he said.

Oosthuizen, the world No.54, hardly came to St Andrews as a prospective winner. He failed to make the cut in three previous Open attempts and had played four rounds in only one major, the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills two years ago and he ended up 73rd and last. But he said his maiden European Tour win in March at Malaga in the Andalucia Open had given him confidence.

He is a product of the Ernie Els Foundation and has returned the compliment by setting up his own junior golf academy at Mossel Bay Golf Club. Els, the 2002 Open champion, said last night: “This is absolutely unbelievable. It would be difficult to find anybody in the world who is more proud of him right now. I could not be happier.

“He comes from a little town on the outskirts of Georgia in South Africa and needed help, so we took him into the foundation. Louis cares and he is giving back. He’s that sort of person. The kid is different class. His life will change but he won’t.”

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