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Oosthuizen in LA for Northern Trust Open
Louis Oosthuizen took the golf world by storm after winning the 2010 British Open by a whopping seven strokes. Unfortunately, the rest of the season was a more troubled after he tore ligaments in his left ankle while hunting in his home country of South Africa.
Fondly called "Shrek" by friends and family for the gap between his two front teeth, Oosthuizen's year turned ogreish when he stepped into a hole while chasing a kudu (a type of antelope). After trying to play through the injury to disastrous results, he stayed away from golf for a couple of months to rehab the ankle.
"It wasn't the cleverest thing," he said of the accident. "But if I have to do it again, I'd probably do the same thing, because I love hunting."
After taking it easy at the end of the year, the 28-year-old quickly returned to the form that earned him that big major victory on the Old Course at St. Andrews. In early January, Oosthuizen won again, surviving a three-way playoff in the African Open.
Thanks to the exemptions he received for winning the Open Championship, Oosthuizen is now fulfilling a personal dream of playing in America. He's in Southern California for this week's Northern Trust Open. The $6.5 million PGA Tour event starts Thursday at historic Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
The trip to the West Coast brings Oosthuizen to Los Angeles for the first time. While talking with reporters Tuesday after a practice round he remarked he's been seeking confirmation of his whereabouts. "I'm still looking around for the 'Hollywood' sign," he said. "Once I see that, I'll know I'm in LA. Yeah, I've never been here. Whenever you're here you want to see that sign. I think that I'm probably going to feel like I'm here."
Here's what else "Louis" (short for Lodewicus Theodorus) Oosthuizen had to say during his media session.
MODERATOR: Louis, thanks for joining us here in media center at the Northern Trust Open, your first appearance here. I believe you played the golf course this morning. If you could just give us the first thoughts on being here at this event for the first time and seeing the golf course.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, thank you. Yeah, it's nice. I mean, I've been out there, grew up on kikuyu fairways and everything, so yeah, really looking forward to the week. The ball didn't go very far this morning, so yeah, it played a bit long. But it was good. I played the back nine with Zach Johnson, so yeah, I'm looking forward to the week and just to get the year started.
Q. When you won the British Open, Ernie Els said something to the effect that it would change your life but it wouldn't change you as a person. Can you talk about that a little bit? Is that true? Is that what's happened?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Well, I think my life has changed a little bit schedule-wise and everything, you know, my opportunities playing tournaments that I don't have to qualify for and things like that. Yeah, I don't know about the other part. I hope I didn't change. Yeah, I think it was a big thing that happened for me last year, winning the Open. I mean, it was only my second win in Europe being that big a tournament. But I had great people around me, and Ernie helped me quite a bit, and my management and everyone did a great job. So yeah, you know, just hopefully still trying to keep my feet on the ground.
Q. Aside from the pain and suffering, the injury that you suffered later in the year, is there any good that came out of that just in terms of maybe just getting away from it a little bit, not overdoing it, all the pressure that might have come with that? You were forced to take time off I take it?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, that's probably the only time ever I've got six weeks off. You know, I normally take a one- or two-week break, which is fine for me, then I want to start playing again. But it was great time spending with the family and just to see what it meant to a lot of people back in South Africa, as well. It was great being back in South Africa, as well, for that long. Yeah, I think I got a bit settled in in those six weeks. I think probably if I would have gone on playing, it might have taken me a bit longer, but the six weeks did me very good.
Q. Was there any negative from that, though, in terms of your game or getting any of it back?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Well, I mean, I was very negative missing the Bermuda tournament, and the Dunhill Links, I was looking forward to that going back to St. Andrews. So yeah, if I look at it from that point of view I was a bit disappointed. But other than that, if I look back at it now, it probably came at the best time it could have come. I mean, I played HSBC, which was probably too early a start. I took another week off and I played the Race to Dubai, and it was fine. Yeah, the injury is completely done now, so just looking forward to the rest of the season really.
Q. What was the injury?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: I tore the ligaments in my left ankle.
Q. How? LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Hunting.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah. I ran around a bush to get a clear shot and went over a pothole. It wasn't the cleverest thing. But if I have to do it again, I probably will do the same because I love hunting. Just would have probably happened in a different way then.
Q. Hunting in South Africa for what?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Kudu. I was hunting kudu.
Q. What is that?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: It's quite a big buck.
Q. I just was wondering about your decision to take membership on the U.S. Tour. There's been a lot of talk about the competition between the European Tour and the PGA Tour, and the fact that you will have to decide if you make the Presidents Cup team whether to play in your national Open or whether to play in the Presidents Cup. Do you feel like the schedule, the worldwide schedule, has just gotten a bit complicated, and is that hurting your game?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: It's definitely gotten a bit complicated because it's a lot of -- there's so many tournaments now to pick from. You know, to answer your first question on the PGA Tour, I've always, as a little boy, wanted to play in America, wanted to at least try. So I just felt like with the exemptions I've got now, it's a great time to do it. I want to at least give myself a few years just to see if I like it, if I enjoy it. I mean, I know what it is back in Europe. I love playing in Europe. So yeah, I mean, I want to give myself that opportunity. You know, it will be a tough decision at the end of the year. I've never missed the South African Open since I turned pro. You know, it'll be a tough one. But on the other hand I've never played Presidents Cup, and I've been working for that, also, since I turned pro. So yeah, it's going to be a difficult decision.
Q. Having won your first major title and adding another win last month at the Africa Open, how much has that changed your own expectations of yourself for this year?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Well, I mean, my record at the majors weren't too great up until the win. I think for me the big thing is going into majors now knowing that I can win it, trying to get my game to the best I can get it at that tournament. I mean, and it just gives you a better -- you've got quite a bit of confidence just teeing it up in any tournament. The win I had earlier this season in South Africa, as well, after the injury was a big confidence boost for me, and yeah, I'm just really keen on just getting the year going and teeing it up and try and do my best.
Q. South Africa, obviously we know you're talking about, too, a great golfing history, but a country that is always looking for heros and doesn't have maybe as many athletes as the United States, is it difficult you coming home and everywhere you go are you surrounded by people asking for autographs and looking for attention? And is that a little unnerving or are you handling it pretty well?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Where I live in South Africa it's pretty -- it's a quiet area. I've got a farm there, so normally on the farm it's really laid back. So I try and -- whenever I get to the golf clubs it gets a bit -- everyone wants a bit of your time, which I'm fine, you know. It comes with winning the tournament. But yeah, I think I'm doing okay with it at the moment. You know, to me it was just really nice seeing what it meant to other people, what it meant to the members of the club, what it meant to my friends, family back home, and for golf in South Africa. You know, that to me is a lot of positives. I'm trying to do as much as I can from my side to try and accommodate everyone.
Q. You mentioned playing on the PGA Tour. Obviously you're going to try to play both. How are you going to juggle it, and will you just stay in the U.S. through the Masters? Do you have a U.S. base?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: We're probably going to try and base ourselves a bit in Florida, in Old Palm. I'm going back and playing the next four. I'm going back to Spain to defend my title. Unfortunately I'm missing the Arnold Palmer, but then coming straight back to play Houston and the Masters. After that I've got a bit of a break, and then back here again for a few. It's going to be a lot of flying around, but I need to give myself that opportunity, and I should be able to pull it off.
Q. Your performance at the British Open was so airtight and confident that it really got a lot of people thinking about how -- just how good a player you could be, and I'm just wondering about your own feeling about your game now. Is your confidence as high as it was then, or are you approaching that, or how is your game trending?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, you know, I think my confidence is getting to that level again. Always have a few bumps along the way. I felt like I played really nice in Qatar, just the last round struggled off the tee and the rough was very severe and ended up only finishing 37th. You know, I took a lot of confidence out of that tournament. Starting here again, it's probably going to be a bit different. I'm not used to the Tour and I'm just getting used to everything. But golfing-wise I feel like I'm swinging it pretty well, and it's probably getting to the level I want it, and hopefully I can get it -- through the next eight weeks I can get it good so that I'm going into the Masters pretty confident.
Q. There's a little bit of history here with Riviera and its South African roots with the grass that originated from here from when this used to be a horse farm, and it came through the hooves coming from South Africa. What you've seen of Riviera, what you know of it, how much you've played it, what do you think of this venue?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: You know, like I said, kikuyu is nice to play. I enjoy playing off kikuyu. The greens were quite firm this morning, and it was really fast. I've got to get used to probably the greens with the speed. I don't think it's that quick in Europe all the time. But yeah, other than that, I mean, at the end of the day it's just how you're going to hit it, and with the rough not being that thick, I think there's a lot of opportunities. The weather this morning made it a bit longer, so I think it all depends on the weather. But should be a good track and should be able to make a few birdies.
Q. Can you describe the week after the Open? Was there a point where you played the last round and just blew everybody away, never cracked, everybody thought who is he, he's going to crack, never happened, and then you handled the post-event press conference perfectly, mentioning Nelson Mandela, like you had been there, like this was your 15th major title or something. Then you go home. What was the next week like, and was there a point where you said, wow, how did I do that?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, I was actually playing the next week in Sweden. Yeah, I think it was a good decision to play actually because the time I was on the golf course, no one could really be all over me. It was just me and the game again. I think it was probably a good decision. But the week after when I had some off time was pretty rough. But I think it only probably sunk in at the time I had off at home with the injury. Looking back, watched a few DVDs of The Open, watched the last round and things like that. It probably sunk in a lot more then than it did within the next month after the win.
Q. And did you ever look at yourself and say, wow? We all did.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, I don't know. I think when you're on the course it's different, but looking back at it, after the tee shot Paul hit on 9 and me just bogeying 8, and I think the eagle I made there, I think it was probably my first eagle I made on that hole, and I've played it every year since 2003 at the Dunhill Links. Yeah, it was a great time to make it. I think looking back it was quite special.
Q. Do you have room on your farm to hit some balls? Do you have an area where you can do that?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah, I've got, but when I'm back home, when I'm there, I try to put the clubs in the cupboard, just stick them in the one corner. But I've got some space if I want to, yeah.
Q. And then in dealing with the sudden limelight that you were thrust into in winning the Open, who have you leaned on for advice and what's some of the best advice you've received?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: You know, Ernie has been a great mentor since amateur days. I'll always ask him if I'm really stuck in something. You know, it's difficult to say what the best advice was. I've got it from a lot of people, and I think I'll just try and follow my own advice sometimes and just keep on playing and keep on trying to be the same guy that's won the Open before, the week before, and be the same guy the week off. To me that's the big thing, not looking too much into it trying to get a big head or something. Just play the game. This is a great game, and it can get you under pretty quickly.
Q. I know you've played in the U.S. before. Have you been to LA before, and what's your impression of it?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: I've never been here. I'm still looking around for the Hollywood sign. Once I see that, I'll know I'm in LA. Yeah, I've never been here. Whenever you're here you want to see that sign. I think that I'm probably going to feel like I'm here.
Q. A little farther east from where we are.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: I don't know which way is east. I'm still on Qatar time.
Q. The most important question, if you win are you going to buy us champagne again?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: I'm going to try. I'm going to try and get it to you.
Q. The whole Shrek thing became a big talking point at the British Open. Has it died down since then, and do you get a bit fed up with the reference?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: No, look, it's a lot easier saying Shrek than saying Oosthuizen. Ach, it's a nickname since amateur days, so I don't mind it. There's not many people that calls me that, but a few friends like Hennie Otto back in Europe, that's the only thing he calls me is Shrek. Yeah, it's just one of those I take it on the chin.
Q. And the head covers are not coming back, the Shrek head covers?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: No, it was actually tearing apart. I've got a South African rugby little head cover on. Quite a big fan of them, and I'll stick it on there, keep it on there.
Q. Is the UPS new?
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yeah.
Q. Westwood had it, I know.
LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN: Yes, it's new.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.
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