30 Apr 2020

Louis Oosthuizen – Springbok Superstar on COVID-19, Pete Cowen and potential Major winners

By Thomas Wragg

COVID-19 has caused chaos across the golfing world with no professional event played since The Players Championship in March, which was cut short after just one round due to the global pandemic. But there is now hope in sight with the PGA Tour recently announcing they would restart their season in June while the PGA Championship, US Open and The Masters Tournament have all been scheduled for later in the year. It’s welcome news for golfers and golf fans alike but former Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen, revealed, exclusively to Worldwide Golf, there will be some ‘hard choices to make’ in scheduling the remainder of the season.


“I think once we get going again and we know exactly what events will be taking place then we can start to piece together a new schedule for the remainder of the season,” said the South African, when we caught up in a Zoom interview.

“It’s going to be a crazy time working out a proper schedule with rest in-between tournaments as big events will be coming thick and fast. Golf fans are going to be in for a treat with so many massive events in such a short space of time. It’s going to be tough and there will be some hard choices to make where we might have to miss out on some of the bigger events to be ready for the Majors.”

The first of those choices to be made is when to return to professional golf with no European Tour event until July 30th at the earliest while the PGA Tour are set to restart their season in Texas on June 11th with the Charles Schwab Challenge. Despite returning to the game he loves, it will be unfamiliar territory for Oosthuizen with the first four PGA Tour events, at the least, scheduled to take place without any fans.


THREE MONTH BREAK

“I don’t think I’ll play the Charles Schwab Challenge and see and see how it goes behind closed doors,” he says. “I’ll be catching up with a few of the guys after the tournament to see what they made of the experience of playing without any fans. I’ll probably return at the RBC Heritage the week after. There’s a lot of things that could happen between now and then so we’ve just got to sit back and see how things play out.”

From the cancellation of The Players Championship to the restart of the PGA Tour season on June 12th, it will have been exactly three months since the golfing elite last played in a professional tournament. With tight lockdown laws across the globe not many have had the chance to maintain their normal practice routine, including Oosthuizen, so will this hinder players when they return?

“I don’t think so. I think most of the guys would have rested nicely and will be raring to get back out on the golf course,” says Oosthuizen, who has spent the majority of the unscheduled break sorting out his new home.

“Everyone knows how long it’s going to take to get back to their ‘A’ game and after four-or five-weeks players could be hitting their peak at a really crucial stage of the season. Every player is different but it’s all about knowing how to bring your best for big tournaments and now we have a date for a comeback that’s going to make it easier to prepare.”

Louis Oosthuizen blew away the field at The 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews.

One big tournament the 37 year old won’t need to prepare for this year is The Open Championship after the R&A announced the cancellation of this year’s tournament due to COVID-19. Oosthuizen made himself a household name back in 2010 when he won golf’s oldest Major by a mammoth seven strokes from Englishman Lee Westwood at the ‘Home of Golf’, St Andrews. One big tournament the 37 year old won’t need to prepare for this year is The Open Championship after the R&A announced the cancellation of this year’s tournament due to COVID-19. Oosthuizen made himself a household name back in 2010 when he won golf’s oldest Major by a mammoth seven strokes from Englishman Lee Westwood at the ‘Home of Golf’, St Andrews.

“It’s sad to know that we’re not going to play The Open this year, it has always been my favourite tournament of the season,” he says. “It was a tough call to make but it was the right one. Many golfers would rather stay where they are based as we don’t know what will happen with this virus or if travel will even be allowed then.

“Winning the tournament in 2010 gave me such a great feeling. I played really well and had been solid the whole week. When I hit my second shot on the 17th on the final day it started to sink in what I was about to achieve and I started looking at all the fans and taking it all in. What made it even more special was winning the tournament at St Andrews. It’s definitely the place where The Open was created to play.”

The South African had only claimed his first European Tour win just seven events prior to the 139th edition of The Open at the Open de Andalucía. After his victory in Spain, Oosthuizen missed four of the next six cuts before his epic win over the Old Course but he always felt he was bringing his ‘A’ game to Scotland.

“Even though I missed the cut a week before that Open Championship I felt that I played really well,” he says. “When I started that final round at St Andrews, I knew I didn’t need to worry about my game because I knew it was there as I had showed that the last three days. It’s all about your emotions, the way you think around the golf course and your routine, so I had all of these things in place and I just plotted along and tried not to make stupid mental errors.

“I absolutely love playing links golf. There’s a lot of different shot making, you have hit an array of different shots to win an Open Championship. You can basically strike the ball multiple ways and it’s all about what your eyes see and that’s what makes it fun and interesting.”


‘STRAIGHT SHOOTER’

At the time of his breakthrough Major win, Oosthuizen was working with Worldwide Golf columnist and PGA Master Professional Pete Cowen. The pair started their working relationship in 2005 with the Yorkshireman by his side for eight years before taking a short break from each other. The pair reunited shortly after but decided to part ways a couple of years ago.

“Pete is a straight shooter, he will tell you when you’re trying to moan and groan and he will tell when you know you are wrong and that is the guidance you need,” he says. “You need a strong figure like Pete to give you that stern advice sometimes to just pull you back to what you know is good and working well. I don’t think there is anyone better than him when it comes to chipping, pitching and bunker play. After we stopped working together and I was struggling with that part of my game, I would take a sneak peek on what he was teaching a player in the bunker just to remind myself of the things he taught me!”

Louis Oosthuizen enjoyed a successful partnership with Worldwide Golf columnist Pete Cowen.

South African golf has been in a strong place for a long while with Oosthuizen, Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel leading the way for the home of the Springbok in recent years while Bobby Locke, Gary Player, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els have all been inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame for their phenomenal achievements in the game. Now a new wave of South African’s are making a name for themselves with players such as Erik Van Rooyen, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Brandon Stone all making their mark on the European Tour and PGA Tour.

“The South African camaraderie is great and it’s very important to have that,” says Oosthuizen. “Players like Christiaan and Erik are great to be around and there are also some younger stars coming through. It’s great seeing them now where we were 10 years ago, Charl and I travelled together around the world and tried to find our feet on the big Tours, so I’m happy to see the younger players going through the same things.


POTENTIAL MAJOR WINNERS

“I won the Open in 2010, Charl won the Masters in 2011 and then Ernie won his second Open in 2012. Since then we haven’t had a South African Major winner but I definitely think Erik and Christiaan have the talent to win one, they are great golfers.

“I felt so bad for Christiaan when he shot seven under at The Players Championship before the tournament was canned. He was in-form and played unbelievable golf. The talent is there, it just depends on how much the players want it and when they get to that position, are they going to take the chance with both hands and show the world what they can do? It’s just the matter of getting yourself in that position on Sunday to be able to do it.”

“I won the Open in 2010, Charl won the Masters in 2011 and then Ernie won his second Open in 2012. Since then we haven’t had a South African Major winner but I definitely think Erik and Christiaan have the talent to win one, they are great golfers.

Golf fans in the UAE will hopefully be able to catch Oosthuizen in action once again come the end of the year at the DP World Tour Championship when there is a clearer picture of what will happen to the remaining European Tour events. It’s a country the nine-time European Tour winner loves coming to which is clear to see when you look at his record in the UAE. With three top tens at the season-ending event and three top fives at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to his name, it’s obvious how much he enjoys playing in the desert.

“I love playing in sunny weather and I have always played well when it’s nice and warm,” he says. “The golf courses are great there, Abu Dhabi Golf Club is one of the best courses I have ever played and I always have a great time playing there, the greens are always good. I look forward to putting the tournaments in the UAE on my schedule. It feels like a holiday week whenever we come over to the Dubai and Abu Dhabi to play golf as I bring my family along and we go and check out the local area.”

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