Louis clinches Africa Open cliff-hanger with big putt on 17

Louis Oosthuizen had to wait until the 17th hole on Sunday in the final round of the Africa Open to shake off the dogged challenge of Tjaart van der Walt and successfully defend his title with his ninth win as a professional.

He rammed home a 35-footer for birdie then to open up a two stroke lead, and he finished on 27-under-par 265, two ahead of Van der Walt.

“It was a real dogfight for most of the day,” said Oosthuizen. “I remember watching Tjaart when I was an amateur, and it was just great seeing him play to his potential today. He played really well. He’s one of those who won’t go away. He’s not going to mess it up – he’s too consistent for that.”

But it was just a tremor that seemed to cross Van der Walt’s poker face after a day-long battle as Oosthuizen sank his putt for birdie on the difficult par-three that betrayed him and left him still in search of a maiden professional win.

He missed his birdie putt, and he missed his par putt, and left himself too much to do to catch the 2010 Open champion.

“What happened on 17, it was going to be one of us who faltered,” said Oosthuizen, “If I two-putted, he would probably have made that short putt. One of us needed to make some big putt to put a lot of pressure on the other guy, and it was just fortunate for me that it went my way.”

The battle between the two left 2009 champion Retief Goosen back in third place on 24-under-par 268, while Jaco van Zyl took fourth place one shot further back – in turn, one shot ahead of Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth.

And there was some joy for Richard Sterne, who, in his return to tournament action after nearly a year off in an attempt to get over some major back problems, finished sixth on 20-under-par 272.

But it was all about the battle up front for the fans, and they got some of Oosthuizen’s sparkling best.

Amongst the array of shots which enchanted them was a moment on the sixth tee: He had just made his second bogey of the day on the fifth, and he stepped up onto the following 282-metre par-four with driver in his hand.

“I did something stupid on the putt – I changed my mind standing over it, and I was very cross with myself,” he said. “On six, I go for that green every time, so to me it was a good driver today with the wind into me.”

He made birdie there, and again on seven. He made another crucially on nine, a hole which was the most difficult on the course throughout the week and gave up just two birdies to the top 30 players.

That got him back into the hunt just as it looked as if he might slip back, and, as Van der Walt and Goosen each made a bogey in their homeward nine, Oosthuizen was flawless on his way to victory.

Incredibly, Oosthuizen said ahead of the final round that he thought 27-under would win. “At one stage, I thought it would be more, but once you turn and reach 13 – 13, 14, 15 were great holes today; 17 and 18 as well, so I knew there wouldn’t be many birdies,” he said.

As it turned out, the two he made were enough – and the two strokes he picked up with them equated to his margin of victory.

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