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Oosthuizen Delivers Birthday Present for Mandela & South Africa


Louis Oosthuizen gave credit to many people after accepting the Claret Jug for his victory in the 139th British Open. Among those on his list was Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who celebrated his 92nd birthday on Sunday, the date of Oosthuizen's runaway seven-stroke win over Lee Westwood and the world's best players.

The 27-year-old also thanked two legends from his home country, Gary Player and Ernie Els, his parents, his wife and daughter - both of whom greeted him after the final putt fell en route to his scintillating 16-under 272 finish, Zack Rasego - his caddie for seven years, and a little red dot on his golf glove.

"I've got a little red dot on my glove," Oosthuizen said later in the interview room. "Whenever I look down and look at it, I know exactly, what's my trigger, focus, forget about everything, just focus, hit the shot now. I mean, it worked great the whole week."

Here's what else the gap-toothed player called "Shrek" by his friends said during his session with reporters.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined by 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. How does it feel?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: That feels good.

MODERATOR: Take us through your thoughts on an amazing day for you.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, I felt like I started off a bit better than yesterday. But it was good. I hit many greens. I played really solid the front nine I felt like. I was 1 over through 8, which I thought should have been 1 or 2 under really, and then I just had in my head I needed one putt to really get my rhythm going. And that eagle on 9, that got me started. I think it was a big change on 12 when Paul made triple and I made birdie, and all of a sudden, it was mine to throw away, really. But knowing St. Andrews, 14 was a dangerous drive, 17 was a dangerous drive, but I've been hitting my driver so well, and I think any other club there I would have probably made a bad swing. With a driver I know I'm not going to lose it right if I hit it very hard, which I did on those two holes. Yeah, it was just fantastic.

Q. Fantastic win for yourself and also a great birthday present for Nelson Mandela.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, that's amazing. You know, I woke up this morning, and I didn't know it was his birthday today, but I saw it this morning on the news, on the internet. It felt a bit special, really, out there. And you know, when I walked down 18, I was thinking about his birthday, and then my manager also gave me a list of things, and it was also in there. So it worked out. What he's done for our country is unbelievable, so happy birthday to him once again.

Q. Is he a fan of links golf, Nelson?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: (Laughing) I don't know if he's a fan of links golf.

Q. Obviously when you get this far, you know you have ability. Did you think you had it in yourself to win a major championship?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: It's easy probably to say now yes, but yeah, you know what, everyone around me has told me that, and it was a matter of me believing it. Like I said earlier, my win at Malaga just got my mind around things. And the way I was playing at Pebble and missing the cut was very disappointing, and looking at the scores, it was very windy; it was my type of golf, really, a lot of wind. And this week, it was something different. I made good putts. I made putts when I had to. I rarely missed a putt under six feet this week, really, things like that. Everything comes together. You also got the bounces on your side and things like that. A lot of times I thought I hit it in the bunker, and then I got there and it was like a yard or two. You need all those things to go your way. But I think it was a much tighter race until the 12th hole today.

Q. You talked yesterday about how you had a temper at one time. It boggles many of us to see how calm you are. Did you get any help to get over that? Was that done by yourself? Did you see people who deal with anger issues?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: It was just a matter of growing up, really. I think any youngster that's playing that makes stupid mistakes on the golf course, it frustrates you. If you look at the older guys on Tour who have all that experience, when they make bogey or double bogey, well, they just go on to the next hole. I thought to myself, the quicker I can get around that, the quicker I'm going to win tournaments here.

Q. You know Shrek is playing up the road tonight.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: (Laughing) I won't be there, though.

Q. Lee Westwood told us here an hour ago that he was responsible for the Shrek nickname. Now you're Open Champion, it's probably not so bad to be named after a Hollywood star, is it?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Well, it started back in South Africa, and you know how things just roll. The minute it got over here, everyone, Darren, Lee, Chubby, everyone, just Shrek, Little Shrek, things like that. But you know, I don't mind.

Q. How does it feel now that half the world now thinks they know how to pronounce your name, first of all?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: It's like I said yesterday, to win an Open Championship is special, but to win it here at St. Andrews is just it's something you dream about. Yeah, I'm proud of the way I held my nerves and everything around the back nine, especially when I got to the 14th tee. I knew that I could throw a big lead away. And 17 to me, with that one it was always a driver, didn't matter what lead I had. But it was still nerve wracking, but yeah, it's just great.

Q. But to win by seven shots, how amazing is that? And also, you had all those holes to think about it. What was going through your mind?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: You know, it was strange, because it was actually very tight until the 12th hole. I mean, it could easily be I make bogey and Paul make birdie, and it's a one shot game. You know, the minute he made that number, that putt to me meant a lot, that birdie putt, just for momentum on the next six holes. My caddie played a big role then, shot for shot, not take because obviously your mind is going, thinking, what you're saying, your speech, things like that. But whenever I got to the ball, I was fine. I just focused on the shot that I had, and even on my little putts with that big lead, I wanted to take all my time, not do anything silly and not put myself under any pressure. And when I got to that 17th, the second shot, I didn't look at the pin, I just went for front edge, pulled it a little, but I knew the club I had was never going to reach the bunker, and I was happy to take 5.

Q. I want to know if Gary Player phoned you last night.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: He phoned me this morning. We had a little chat. It was nice. He spoke in my home language, Afrikaans. He first spoke to my wife, and then he was saying just to stay calm out there, have a lot of fun, and he said that the crowd was probably going to be on Paul's side. But then he told me the story when he played against Arnold Palmer when he won his first Masters. He said, they wanted to throw stuff at me. But he was so focused on beating him in Augusta. So you know, it meant a lot, him phoning me up. Yeah, he's just a great guy.

Q. Early in the season you were in a final group out with Rhys Davies in Morocco and lost on that occasion, and then the following week you won in Andalusia. Did you draw on any of those two tournaments for what you faced today?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, my goal earlier in the year was to play in the Masters, and I was right on the bubble well, I was about 60th in the world, and I needed two good weeks. I thought the win in Morocco would definitely get me into the top 50, and I wouldn't have gone to Malaga then. But I felt like I actually played better golf in Morocco, but I was just outplayed. Then got to Malaga knowing that now I've got to definitely win or second to make it into the Masters, and that meant so much for me. You know, and I mean yeah, it just worked out nicely, really.

Q. I wonder if you think there's any reason why there have been so many South African major winners in recent years? And also, can you tell me how much better it felt coming down 18 today knowing that you'd won?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, like I said, you know, we've got I think at the moment we've got one of the best junior and amateur you know, the junior foundation and the Golf Association for amateurs. We've got a very good basis around that. You know, the weather in South Africa is brilliant. It's just becoming a really good sport. You know, wintertime you can still play some days in shorts there. Yeah, it's just I just think that's a big part, the weather, as well in South Africa. And coming down 18, I didn't really want to hit driver down there. I was very nervous. But then I thought, yeah, a 3 iron could hit the path and go somewhere else. My caddie said, "You've hit your driver so well, just hit it." It just felt amazing when I saw that ball in the fairway.

Q. You had had the honor all around the front side until and then you lose it on 8. He drives first, and you answer it with an eagle. It was like that was a wake up call for you or something.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah.

Q. Would it have happened if you'd been hitting first?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: I don't know. I felt like I hit a good putt on 8, but I misread it completely. He made a little good one there for par, and we got to the 9th, and the thing is that wind to me, it's a nice wind to use a little cut up against. I knew I wasn't going to lose it left, the shot I wanted to hit, and I'm hitting my driver really well. I first thought my ball was first, so when I got there, I saw I was pin high. And at that stage, when I was about to putt, in my head, I just knew I needed something to go in, any birdie, just to two putt there was very important for me, because Paul was probably going to two putt anyway. But after I hit it, it was never anywhere else. It was tracking and went in, and it was good.

Q. I know Ernie Els has been a big influence on you, but the first South African to really blaze a trail in golf was Bobby Locke, who won here in 1957. Do you know much about Bobby Locke?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Unfortunately I don't. Yeah, unfortunately I don't. I've heard a lot of stories about him, and that's about it, yeah.

Q. When did you know it was your day and you weren't going to choke?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Say that again, please.

Q. When did you actually know it was your day and you weren't going to choke?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Well, that's pretty mean saying "choke".

Q. A lot of people do on the last day. You didn't; that's the whole point.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Like I said again, I felt it was very tight. Three shots was nothing playing the back nine. But the minute Paul hit it in the bush on 12 and making that 7 and me making that putt for birdie was a huge thing. You know, at that stage I had a lot of confidence in the holes that were coming up. I knew 13 and 14, to me, I don't know, I like those holes. I felt I can make two birdies, really. 14, I hit a good putt on 14, just missed. And 15 and 16, I was always playing away from the right side. That was my play the whole week. The toughest challenge then was 17, and I had eight shots leading 17. You don't really think about it; you just hit your drive.

Q. So when you got on 17 you still weren't completely certain?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: No. That's one thing I learned in this game, you're certain when the last putt goes in. You know, I didn't want to make 6 or 7 on 7. My play was front edge, take a three putt and walk to the next. When my tee shot was down on 18, I felt that was it. I'm definitely not going to 10 putt around there. I just hit the first putt way to the right and then didn't really matter from there, and I was too excited, really.

Q. What exactly are you doing when you look down before each swing? Is it some sort of mental discipline?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah. I've got the ability to get away from the game when I play, especially when we're playing slow or things like that. I think of all kinds of things. And it's hard for me to then get back into the moment. I've got a little red dot on my glove. Whenever I look down and look at it, I know exactly, what's my trigger, focus, forget about everything, just focus, hit the shot now. I mean, it worked great the whole week. Last week, as well, I hit it I didn't make the cut there, but it worked good. Every shot I hit, I was up for it. The last thing I wanted to do was hit a shot and then walking up and thinking, "What were you thinking?" things like that. To get the thinking errors out of the game was a big thing.

Q. What was the length of the putt on 9? And what was the read on it? And also on 18, was it hard to pull the trigger on that birdie putt, or what?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: You know, on 9, I'm not sure what the length was, probably 40 feet there. It was about two, three balls to the right. On 18, I'm glad I asked my caddie to read, because I had a completely different line. I read it left edge, and he said right edge, or outside right. It's always difficult hitting a putt. That's why I do most of my putts myself, read them myself. But it was difficult to hit it on that line, and I pulled it completely, and he was right. So yeah, it's probably not the best of concentrations I've put in it. I just wanted to get the last putt in the hole.

Q. It seemed remarkable that you and Paul were chatting away when there was such a big prize at stake. Can you say a little bit about that? And also, what do you think of Paul, he came close this time, whether you think he will eventually get one of these majors?

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Paul is a fantastic golfer and a great person. He's definitely going to win a major, that's for sure. Yeah, it's always nice playing with him. We have a lot of fun on the course, talk about other things and things like that. I think it's important. It's still just a game you're playing, and you've got to have fun with the guys you're playing, otherwise it's going to be quite miserable out there. But yeah, it just was we had a really fun day, yeah.

MODERATOR: Louis, many congratulations. Thanks for coming in.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.