If you are part of a group that includes Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Greg Norman, Dustin Johnson and Craig Wood, you have to be doing something right. And Louis Oosthuizen, owner of one of golf’s smoothest swings, has done a lot of things right in the game, including a victory in the Open Championship at St. Andrews, in Scotland, a decade ago.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned list of golf glitterati to whom Oosthuizen is linked is bound by the distinction of finishing runner-up in all four major championships. And all but Johnson and Oosthuizen have won more than one major.
Oosthuizen has a chance to change that on Sunday at Winged Foot Golf Club. With a stellar 2-under 68 in Saturday’s third round on the West Course, he’ll begin the final round just four strokes behind leader Matthew Wolff. The amiable South African completed 54 holes in 1-under 209, one of only three men still under par on the arduous windswept layout in Mamaroneck, N.Y.
“Yeah, any under-par round at a U.S. Open you'll take,” said Oosthuizen, 37, who has taken the liberty of shooting quite a few under-par rounds in a U.S. Open career that began in 2010 at Pebble Beach, a month before he blitzed the British Open field on the Old Course, where he won by seven shots.
His third-round 68 marked his 12th round in the 60s in this championship. On Thursday, when he fired a 67, he surpassed Nicklaus, the four-time U.S. Open champion, for most rounds of 67 or lower with his eighth such score.
Then there was his performance in the 2015 championship at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., when he opened with a 77 and then proceeded to dismantle the joint with rounds of 66-66-67 to post a championship-record 199 for his final 54 holes that earned him a share of second place with Johnson. Included in that performance was a 29 on his last nine holes, only the fourth time in U.S. Open history such a score was posted.
Saturday’s round featured four birdies against two bogeys. Only Wolff, who had an amazing 65, Zach Johnson (68), Rory McIlroy (68) and Alex Noren (67) had fewer bogeys on the day, one apiece.
“I think we got very lucky with the draw today,” Oosthuizen said. “Waking up this morning, watching a bit of golf, you could see it was really cold, windy, and definitely died down for us. The sun came out a little bit. Definitely lucky on the draw today.”
The wind, the temperatures and the West Course itself aren’t going to be appreciably different for Sunday’s final round. On Saturday, Oosthuizen hit just five fairways but still found 14 greens in regulation. He knows that won’t cut it with final-round pressure also to contend with, but he does have experience winning a major, something youngsters Wolff and Bryson DeChambeau, who is at 3-under 207, have yet to achieve.
“I need to play pretty similar to what I did today,” he said, probably referring to his ability to limit mistakes. “You need to hit fairways. I think everyone out there now, especially on this golf course, knows you need to be patient. A lot can happen even in the last two, three holes, so try and get yourself in a position with three, four, five holes to go and see what you can do.”
Oosthuizen has 14 worldwide wins in his professional career, but he hasn’t taken a title in America. A U.S. Open victory would be the ultimate way to change that.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to usopen.com and usga.org.