Saturday, July 17, 2010

Oosthuizen leads by four from Casey with a round to go

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African who must have been a 100-1 chance before the start of the Open champion, goes into Sunday's final round over the Old Course, St Andrews as the hot favourite to win his first Major title.
He has had rounds of 65, 67 and 69 - birdieing the final hole after 9pm this evening - for a 15-under-under par tally of 201.
He leads by four strokes from England's Paul Casey who has strung together rounds of 69, 69 and 67 for 205.
The South African held a five-shot lead over 1989 champion Mark Calcavecchia at 12 under when the delayed second round was completed this morning, the South African having made the most of his early start on Friday before the bad weather struck.
Oosthuizen, unsurprisingly, made a nervy start after a wait of more than 28 hours since completing his second round and his approach to the opening hole finished around 40ft beyond the flag, from where he three-putted after charging his first effort six feet past.
A run of four pars settled the 27-year-old down, but his lead was down to two shots.
But far from wilting under the pressure, Oosthuizen responded to it by playing very steadily. He birdied the seventh and ninth to be out in 35 and then put in a grandstand finish with a birdie at the 16th and a birdie at the 18th, where it might easily have been an eagle 2 after a mighty drive on to the green at this par-4 hole.
Clearly the South African is not going to be easily caught over the final 18 holes.
Calcavecchia ruined his hopes with a nightmare start of bogeys at the first three holes and a quadruple bogey 9 at the par-5 fith. The American reached the turn in a sad 43 shots but, given the veteran his due, he came home in 34 for a 77.
Tiger Woods has won the last two Opens at St Andrews - by eight shots in 2000 with a total of 19-under-par 269 and by five in 2005 with 14-under 274  - but surely he is not going to complete a hat-trick? The world No 1 had his second 73 in a row to be 12 shots behind Oosthuizeon with a tally of  three-under 213.

Casey twice got within a shot of South African leader

Louis Oosthuizen leads Paul Casey by four shots ahead of the final round of The Open Championship at St Andrews after a third round 69.
Casey, who only a week ago spoke of not wanting to be left behind as friend after friend won this year, was six adrift of the South African at the halfway stage but the 32 year old English star piled on the pressure with a dazzling outward 31 in more windy conditions.
The lead was twice down to one shot, but Oosthuizen refused to buckle and seized back control with a supremely impressive display of his own.
Oosthuizen matched Casey's birdies on the seventh and ninth and, with conditions easing late in the day, sank a 40ft putt for another at the 16th.
Casey was delighted to safely negotiate The Road Hole 17th - it cost him a triple-bogey 7 on Friday - but missed the birdie chance on offer at the last and had to settle for a 67.
Oosthuizen, though, also got through the 17th unscathed before driving the final green and two-putting for a fourth birdie of the day, a 69 and a 15 under total of 201.
As a result he remains firmly on course to become his country's first winner of the title since Ernie Els at Muirfield in 2002. He is a product of Els' Foundation.
“I was quite a bit nervous on the first,” admitted Oosthuizen. “That putt I was quite nervous knocking it ten feet past.
“But during the round it was great - I got myself together and made a few good par saves, and my first birdie on seven just got me going. I felt like I swung it really well all day and probably left a few more birdies out there.
“I couldn't wait to get to the back nine or to get to the 12th because I knew there was actually more birdie chances out there than the front nine today.
“But there's a lot of holes left - Paul played beautiful today, I was watching him from the fairways the whole time making putts.”
Casey is the only player within seven shots of him. German Martin Kaymer lies third on eight under and one further back are three more Europeans - England's Lee Westwood, Swede Henrik Stenson and Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares. That means the top six on the leaderboard are all European Tour Members.
Casey went into the event saying: "For me it's the Major I most want at the ultimate venue."
In America alone this season Justin Rose (twice), Rory McIlroy, Westwood and, best of all, Graeme McDowell at the US Open Championship have all lifted titles.
"I very much want to emulate what the others have done," Casey said.
"I am knuckling down and I've increased my focus and my workload just to make sure I'm not getting left behind."
Casey led at Pebble Beach after an opening 69 and he was also the pacesetter at Royal Troon in 2004, but this is his best chance of a Major so far.
Oosthuizen, the World Number 54 who had made the halfway cut in only one of his previous eight Majors and had then finished last in that, proved a tough nut to crack after taking a five stroke advantage into the weekend.
Forced to wait 28 hours between the end of his second round and the start of his third - Friday's suspension of play was part of the reason for that - Oosthuizen had not even teed off when his lead came down to four.
He then three-putted the first for bogey, but the former world junior champion began to handle the conditions and the situation much better.
Westwood, who missed the play-off by one after a closing bogey at Turnberry last year, had managed only a disappointing 38 going out, but came home in 33 to re-ignite his hopes.
With Paul Lawrie having come from 10 adrift to beat runaway leader Jean Van de Velde at Carnoustie in 1999 - Britain's last victory in the event - Westwood is sure to keep fighting to the end.
And nothing will be conceded until that feared 17th is out of the way.
Kaymer was eighth in the US Open Championship last month, was a winner in Abu Dhabi in January and is on course for a Ryder Cup debut in October.
Stenson's day actually started at 4.15am. He and 29 others first had to finish their seconds round and after parring the 17th he birdied the last for a 74 and two under aggregate.
"I went back for some sleep in a couple of patches, then came back," he said.
"Obviously it was a good day for me. I made a bomb of 60-70 feet In the eighth and at the 13th hit my five wood about 320 yards and then a sand wedge.
"I couldn't see where it landed, but the crowd went crazy and I figured that was a good sign.
"It's tough conditions out there and we will see where I stand, but I have some experience that might come in handy tomorrow." He finished joint third at Birkdale two years ago.
Rory McIlroy - who scored 63 on Thursday, 80 on Friday - climbed back up from 38th to 12th with a 69.

McIlroy comes off the ropes to return a 69

Rory McIlroy's third-round 69 leaves him feeling positive about the final day at St Andrews. Leader by two after his major record-equalling 63 and then down to 38th after slumping to an 80 in Friday's winds, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland fought his way back to four under par and then waited to see where it left him in the race for the Claret Jug.
Even a double-bogey s6 on the 17th, where he hit his approach up against the wall beyond the slender green, did not puncture his happier mood too much.
''It was great to come out and play nicely the way I did there,'' said McIlroy.
''A bit disappointed with 17 obviously, but it was a good (birdie) three on the last.
''I felt as if I responded quite well to the way everything happened yesterday.
''I knew I was playing nicely - I'm not going to let one round of golf really get me down.
''I really struggled yesterday, but I think playing in such a strong wind made today feel not as bad, even though the wind was still quite strong.
''I definitely hit a few shots out there that I wasn't able to play yesterday. I think it might have just been because I had 80 shots so I had a little bit of practice!
''I know what I'm capable of around this golf course and I know what I'm capable of in final rounds. Hopefully I get off to a fast start.
''I hit a good shot on 17, but just got a gust of wind that completely switched. I hit a seven-iron 210 yards and I had just hit a six-iron on the last hole 175.
''It was pretty unfortunate, but that's links golf and you've just got to deal with it.
''I think it would have been very easy to let yesterday's round sort of linger and I just completely got it out of my head and just went and tried to shoot a good score today.
''Depending on what happens tomorrow I'll probably look back on the week and say 'If I could have just made that 80 a 75 or whatever', but I'm still confident that I can go out and shoot a good one tomorrow.''



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