Out of his reach
Louis Oosthuizen will remember his double-eagle, and his playoff loss
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Just off the locker room in the Augusta National clubhouse there is an intimate sitting room, where on Sunday afternoon Nel-Mare Oosthuizen and her two children watched her husband, Louis, in an exciting final round of the Masters on a large flat screen TV.
The 29-year-old 2010 British Open champion was trying to become the second straight South African to win the green jacket. His best friend Charl Schwartzel had made four straight birdies last year to become the third South African Masters champion. After his final-round 74, Schwartzel watched the unfolding drama inside Butler Cabin. He had images in his head of taking pictures of Oosthuizen in the green jacket on their flight on Monday to the Malaysian Open like Rory McIlroy had done for him last year on that same flight the day after the Masters.
For Schwartzel, putting the Green Jacket on Bubba Watson was the kind of disappointment an outgoing U.S. president might feel at the inauguration of a president-elect from an opposing political party. He felt that bad.
So around 8:30 p.m. ET, when the two men met in the sitting room after the tournament, it was difficult to tell who was more hurt by the loss. Though he was wearing his green jacket, Schwartzel looked shrunken and tired, while Oosthuizen tried to look upbeat for his family and friends. Oosthuizen was holding one of his children when Schwartzel walked in the room from the awards ceremony.
"Really well played," Schwartzel told Oosthuizen in Afrikaans as they had a slight embrace.
There would be time on the long flight to Malaysia for debriefing. There was so much from the day to talk about, but this wasn't the right time. The wound was too fresh.
"You have to give the guy a little time to settle down," Schwartzel said. "It's just humanly natural to have some feelings."
Oosthuizen, who had started the final round two shots back of leader Peter Hanson, took the lead with a double eagle at the par-5 second hole. His 4-iron albatross from 235 yards was only the fourth double eagle in the tournament's history. With some very steady play, he would hold on to the lead until Watson tied him at 10-under with a birdie at the 16th hole.
That double eagle was eerily similar to a couple of miraculous shots that Schwartzel had made last year at Augusta when he chipped in from off the green at the first hole for a birdie and then made eagle from the fairway at No. 3. A win seemed destined for Oosthuizen if nothing but for incredible luck. But in the end, Watson's otherworldly shot-making ability was too much for the South African.
"That was my first double-eagle ever," Oosthuizen said. "So it was tough; it was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course. But I felt like I found my rhythm going down 11, and you know, played well in from there.
"Bubba had a good stretch of four birdies in a row there. I mean he played brilliant."
Schwartzel knows what Watson is feeling after taking his first green jacket. He knows the rush of momentum that Bubba had after he made four birdies in a row on the back nine. But his heart rings for his best friend.
"I'm so proud of Louis. He played his heart out," Schwartzel said. "He didn't lose this tournament. Bubba won it. I think as hard as it is right now for him, he can take some positives from this. He really played some phenomenal golf.
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"I would have loved to put the jacket on him. But Bubba is an amazing person and a great champion."
Schwartzel was supposed to have been the next great young South African player, but he was upstaged by Oosthuizen, who came out of nowhere to win the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews by seven shots. A Masters win would give assurance to the golf world that Oosthuizen's victory on the Old Course was no fluke. Yet even though he didn't win on Sunday, he more than proved that he would be a regular contender at major championships.
"I thought Louis played the most solid all day," Schwartzel said. "He was in control of his whole game. When Louis hit that first putt in the playoff I couldn't believe that ball stayed out of the hole. I really feel for him. I was obviously routing for Louis, but Bubba stuck in there and won it.
"Louis is the most amazing pressure golfer I've seen. When he's in good form I think he's pretty unbeatable. He gets over things very quickly. He'll be fine."
It's a 20-hour flight from the East Coast to Malaysia. Schwartzel and Oosthuizen will have plenty of time to talk about what happened on Sunday at Augusta. Schwartzel won't take pictures of his friend in the green jacket, but the best friends will surely bask in the wonder of that double eagle at the second hole.
Farrell Evans covers golf for ESPN and can be contacted at email@example.com.
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2012 champion: Bubba Watson
Course: Augusta National Golf Club
Where: Augusta, Ga.
Yardage, par: 7,435 yards, par-72
Past champions: Complete list