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Sunday, July 18, 2010
Oosthuizen's victory comes up short

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Here's what I want you to do:

Go to a mirror. Now spend the next 4½ hours watching your eyebrow hair grow. If possible, do so with the sound of seagulls squawking in the background.

Do that, and you'll know exactly what it was like to watch the final round of the Open Championship.

It wasn't boring. It was a par 5 beyond boring. It was so maddeningly dull that you wanted to stick the sharp end of barbecue tongs in your eyes.

If you think "The Decision" was awful, you should have been here for "The Oosthuizen." LeBron James' self-important TV nightmare lasted only 60-plus minutes. We were stuck with a whole Sunday afternoon -- and part of the night -- of South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen anesthetizing the Open Championship.

Louis Oosthuizen
Nothing against Louis Oosthuizen, but his 7-stroke victory at St. Andrews was a slow and painful ending to the British Open.

It wasn't his fault. Shrek (that's his nickname) did what he was supposed to do: put the rest of the field to sleep. Plus, it helped that the rest of the field was already clutching a pillow and a warm glass of milk and counting the seconds until nap time.

This was agony not because of Oosthuizen, nor because there wasn't an American in the top-5 leaderboard team photo, nor because the St. Andrews weather on Sunday was disappointingly agreeable. It was because nothing happened.

Tiger Woods definitely didn't happen. He went through four outfits and two putters and generally hockey sticked his way around the Old Course's greens.

"One of the worst putting weeks I've ever had," said Woods, whose much-heralded switch in putters lasted exactly three rounds.

This was supposed to be the tournament and the major when Woods became, well, Woods again. He won here in 2000. He won here in 2005. And he won here by a lot each time.

But the only similarity between New Woods and Old Woods is that he still wears red shirts on Sundays. So maybe it's time to try a different color.

All you need to know about Woods' final round is that he wanted to squeeze into the top 10. Winning was out of the question. Winning has been out of the question for much too long. He's 0-for-his-past-seven majors, and I can't think of one legitimate reason to make him the favorite for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

Phil Mickelson didn't happen. Then again, Mickelson never happens at an Open Championship. He has one top-10 finish in 17 tries. Maybe he comes across the pond for the food?

The English didn't happen. The Brit tag team of Paul Casey and Lee Westwood, who began the day in second place and T-5, respectively, never made a move. Well, Casey did -- but it was backward. The English haven't won a major, any major, since Sir Nick Faldo did in 1996.

The rest of the Americans didn't happen. The closest guys to Oosthuizen with a U.S. passport were Sean O'Hair and Nick Watney. They were right there at the end, only 10 strokes back.

Nobody happened except the son of a South African dairy farmer. Oosthuizen was more like Tiger than Tiger. His 7-stroke margin of victory is 2 shots better than what Woods did at St. Andrews in 2005, which, by the way, was the last time you could get more than a cube of ice in your drink here.

I'll admit it: I was pulling for Oosthuizen. He began the week as something of a golf unknown and ended it with a Claret Jug in his hands. Of all the names the official engraver thought he'd be chiseling into silver, I'm guessing Oosthuizen wasn't on the short list. Or the long list. Just be glad the 27-year-old didn't insist on his full name: Lodewikus Theodorus Oosthuizen.

But Oosthuizen didn't simply win the Open, he wrestled it to the ground and threw a pair of handcuffs on it. He was so unflappable that I'm not sure he has sweat glands. And whoever knew we'd have Shrek the fifth?

What a nice, pleasant story. It doesn't matter that Golf Digest, in its latest edition, opened the issue with a photo and headline that read, "South Africa's Next Big Thing" -- and it was about Charl Schwartzel, not longtime friend Oosthuizen.

But Schwartzel knew what the rest of us didn't: Oosthuizen had the game and the temperament to win not only a tournament but also a major. According to Schwartzel, the last time he saw his buddy nervous was on Oosthuizen's wedding day.

Oosthuizen is a "Friends" junkie. "He probably knows the whole series," Schwartzel said.

Now he'll be able to afford all 10 seasons on DVD after cashing the biggest check of his life.

"It's just unbelievable," Oosthuizen said.

It is, but you wouldn't know it from his speech to the huge amphitheater of fans collected around the first tee and 18th green at the Old Course. LeBron James could have learned something.

Oosthuizen didn't point to himself but instead, with his first comments, wished former South African president Nelson Mandela a happy 92nd birthday. What a cool, gracious gesture.

It wasn't the most exciting Open Championship -- unless you're a member of the Oosthuizen family. In fact, it had its drama removed at birth. There were no late-round charges. No real controversies. No nothing.

But if nothing else, there was a worthy winner. He might not have been the most famous man, but he was the right man.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.

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