Little Louis Oosthuizen delivered the killer blow in the final round of the South African Open at Randpark Sunday on the par-4 ninth hole on the Firethorn course.
The hole measures 381 yards off the pro tee and, because there are fairway bunkers in the landing area, for safety's sake players often opt to lay up short of these hazards with an iron.
No trouble to Oosthuizen, though. He may be a small man but he hits big shots – very big ones – and, without hesitation, he pulled his driver out the bag and drove the green with a seemingly effortless swing, his golf ball finishing pin-high about 20 feet from the cup. The putt for an eagle two just slipped past the hole but the tap-in birdie that followed put him on 16-under-par for the tournament and increased his lead at that stage from four shots to five.
With nine holes to go he was in command of the tournament and, a couple of hours later he was the SA Open champion for the first time in his career.
Talking about big shots, it helped, of course, to make eagle at the 547-yard par-5 14th Sunday where he hit a drive and a nine-iron (no misprint here!) to two feet. Wow.
How different all this is, he reminisced with a broad smile earlier in this past week, to back in 2001 while still a 19-year-old amateur when at the self-same ninth – when the course was then known as Randpark and not Firethorn – he was also leading by four (or so he thought!) as he stood on the tee in the final round of the Transvaal Amateur strokeplay championship and victory seemed a near certainty.
"It was crazy back then because I was drawn with Cobie le Grange's son Nico, a pretty good golfer in his day, and we were told there was placing on the fairway because of all the rain that they'd had.
"So we placed and we placed until we arrived at the ninth hole where there was a bunch of Transvaaal Golf Union officials in their jackets, looking grim and waiting for us behind the green. They told us we were disqualified, because placing had only been in operation on the first hole. We couldn't believe it because when we teed off in round one the official hadn't made this clear."
"So we got DQ'd, including Thomas Aiken because he had used a private caddie and not one of Randpark's.
"My old buddy Charl Schwartzel ended up winning and now, even today, I'll tell him if I hadn't been disqualified I'd have given him a hiding!"
Schwartzel, of course, will argue that if Louis hadn't been placing he – Charl – would have taken his good friend to the cleaners.
In any event, 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen was particularly careful not to inadvertently break any rules at Randpark this year (placing on ALL 18 holes were in place Sunday because of overnight rain!) and victory proved to be exceptionally sweet. And this time it was his turn to get the better of his old pal,
Schwartzel, who slipped down the leaderboard as the final round progressed.
And, just like back in 2001, there were a bunch of people waiting for Louis at the back of the ninth green. But, this time,happily for him, they were there in their numbers to cheer long and hard for a big drive from a little man that landed on the green on his way to becoming the South African Open champion by a runaway six shots on 18-under-par 266 after rounds of 62, 70, 67 and 67.
So King Louis' first SA Open is in the bag, and it meant so much to him that he couldn't fight back the tears after sinking the winning putt. Nice to see the emotion, Louis.
He joins Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Bob Charles, Ernie Els and Henrik Stenson as the only players to have won both the British Open and the SA Open.