Louis draws from Open triumph

2011-04-05 19:50
Louis Oosthuizen (File)

Augusta - Louis Oosthuizen missed the cut in his first two Masters but winning last year's Open Championship has given the South African a major jolt of confidence for his third appearance at Augusta National.

Nine months ago, Oosthuizen claimed his first major title with a crushing seven-shot victory after delivering a superlative display of driving at St Andrews.

"Going into any tournament now, my confidence is a lot higher, and especially at the majors," the 28-year-old told a news conference at Augusta National on Tuesday.

"St Andrews just showed me that I can compete in big tournaments. It was a great tournament for me and I'm just trying to go forward from there."

The Masters was the one tournament overseas that Oosthuizen made sure he watched on television whenever possible as a child. As a player, it cannot come soon enough for him on the golfing calendar.

"I've been looking forward to it all year, probably since the PGA (Championship in August)," he said. "Everything is so beautiful here.

"It always looked so beautiful on television. It's just one of those events that's great watching it on television."

Oosthuizen has produced a mixed bag of form this season, winning his third European Tour title at the Africa Open in January but he has since been plagued by an eye infection.

"I had a good start to the season and then it really went a bit down," he said. "The last four or five weeks I have struggled with an eye infection and all kinds of things.

"I had to withdraw from Spain and then I played last week and was quite surprised how I played really. I thought it was going to be quite a bit more rusty, so that gave me a little boost to this week."

Oosthuizen finished tied for 16th at last week's Houston Open and is now eager to tackle the notoriously difficult greens at Augusta National where the ability to leave the ball below the hole is of paramount importance.

"You can get some slippery ones here," Oosthuizen said. "You might have putts that you know you are not going to get within six or eight feet. You've got to get your head around that and know you're going to have a longish putt for par."

Oosthuizen said the most beneficial practice round he had ever played here was in 2009 with compatriots Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, and three-times winner Gary Player.

"That was really nice," the gap-toothed South African recalled with a smile. "It was amazing how similar both of them are course management-wise when they get to the greens. I learned a lot from that."

Oosthuizen is scheduled to tee off with Britain's Justin Rose and South Korean KJ Choi in Thursday's opening round.

Other South Africans in the Masters field include three-time major champion, Ernie Els, the 2002 and 2004 Masters runner-up; Tim Clark, the 2006 Masters runner-up; Retief Goosen, who shared second at Augusta National in 2002; 2007 Masters runner-up Rory Sabbatini and 2008 Masters winner Trevor Immelman.

Oosthuizen spent three years developing his game with help from Els' foundation.

"Ernie was the one everyone wanted to be like," Oosthuizen said. "In South Africa and around the world, he's probably still one of the big heroes out there."

Oosthuizen fell victim to the Masters curse last year by winning the Par-3 Contest staged on the eve of the tournament. No winner of the short-course event has ever gone on to win the Masters in the same week.

That won't stop Oosthuizen from trying to defend his crown and extend a South African Par-3 win streak that began with Rory Sabbatini in 2008 and continued with Tim Clark in 2009.

"I don't like to believe in things like that but it happens all the time," he said.

"I'm definitely playing again. My little girl is going to walk with me. So I'll probably try and get her to kick the ball or something so my score don't count."

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