PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – It’s not something Louis Oosthuizen dwells on, but the fact is worth a double-take: In 126 PGA Tour starts, the South African has 21 top-10 finishes and no victories on U.S. soil.
There wouldn’t be any particular reason for Oosthuizen to change that at the Players Championship, a tournament at which he has missed the cut in three of his six appearances and never has contended. But history didn’t matter when the 2010 Open champion strolled through TPC Sawgrass with a 6-under 66 Friday, sharing the 36-hole lead with Kyle Stanley.
One step closer to solving the riddle.
“I’ve come close a few times, and I’ve felt I’ve played really well,” Oosthuizen said of his play in America. “It’s odd to think that I haven’t won on U.S. soil.”
Rather than winning, the 34-year-old has made his accountant happy with impressive consistency. His last missed cut on Tour was at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational just shy of a year ago.
Still, Pete Dye’s Stadium Course plays no favorites. Both solid and poor form can switch in the swirling north Florida winds.
“You can get one or two awkward bounces or lies and get a flier out of the rough and quickly make a big number, you know, double bogey, triple bogey, whatever it might be,” Oosthuizen said. “And I think that’s where over the years you sort of learn to be patient around this golf course. Don’t try the hero shot all the time. A few times maybe take the bogey. Don’t try and do the brave thing.”
It’s not quite a U.S. Open, but the fickle nature of the course demands acceptance and perhaps an occasional sense of humor.
A deft touch around the greens doesn’t hurt, either. Oosthuizen has made more than 200 feet of putts in the opening two rounds, coupled with a 90 percent scrambling rate.
“I’ve been probably working a little bit more on my putting at home in Palm Beach,” Oosthuizen said. “I try every day, just do a bit of half-an-hour work when I can. I think it’s paid off. I’m rolling the ball really nicely and feel really confident on the greens.”
Oosthuizen lives in Florida now and has adjusted to the pros and cons of being a 16-hour flight away from his native South Africa but closer to most of the tournaments he plays.
“The best part is going back Sunday nights to the family and seeing the kids and going out Tuesdays again to a tournament,” Oosthuizen said. “You know, the bad thing for us is all our family and friends are back in South Africa.
“You’ve got to really work on your schedule to make time to go back and see the family, and to us it’s important that grandfather and grandmothers are there for my kids to spend time with them while they can, and I think that’s the hard part, to fit it into a schedule to take some weeks off where you probably wanted to play, but you need to make those sacrifices.”
Perhaps the next time he flies back to his home country, a crystal trophy will have its own seatbelt.