It’s a measure of the man that Louis Oosthuizen took time out of his own 144th Open Championship efforts on Sunday during the third round to congratulate his playing partner, the amateur Paul Dunne, on a particularly good shot.
Oosthuizen rekindled memories of his 2010 victory on the Old Course at St Andrews with a round of five-under-par 67 and that could have been even better but for dropped shots out of the blue on the eighth and the 12th.
“He’s played unbelievable golf,” said Oosthuizen. “That second shot on 17 was one of the best I’ve seen. I think he made me so nervous on my second shot because I was going a completely different route, low, running up there, and I tugged it a little bit to the left. But it was an amazing shot. He deserved to birdie that.”
Oosthuizen’s round put him in a share of the lead together with the extraordinary Dunne, the 22-year-old from Ireland who played in last year’s Open and missed the cut. He was the only amateur to come through Final Qualifying, and now he finds himself in a position to become only the fourth amateur to win the most prestigious major championship of them all.
Also at 12-under going into the final round – being played on Monday after rain and wind badly disrupted the second round – is Australia’s Jason Day, contending again, as he has seemingly perennially, in a major.
On the first day of really benign weather, there were plenty of good scores out there: Most impressive of all was Australia’s Marc Leishman, who rocketed 44 places up the leaderboard with a bogey-free eight-under-par 64 to set him up three shots off the lead going into the final round.
Almost as impressive was two-time Open winner Padraig Harrington, who was also bogey-free though his seven-under 65 which elevated him into fifth place, two off the pace.
Next best amongst the South Africans was Retief Goosen, who, like Dunne, qualified to play in The Open at Woburn. He had a hot streak with his putter, starting with an eagle three on the fifth, but things cooled down a bit for him on the homeward nine, and a bogey on 18 saw him finish nine-under.
“Three, four shots off the lead going into tomorrow is a good place to be,” said the two-time US Open champion who has come back remarkably after back surgery. “I’m feeling great. I have no back pain. I’d rather play bad golf and have no back pain than good golf and back pain and not being able to sleep or anything else. I’ve had a good run in my career, but it’s nice to be up there and hopefully have a good day tomorrow, see where we end up.”
For Oosthuizen, it’s been a week which has felt increasingly like a homecoming. “I love the golf course,” he said. “I love this style of golf that you need to play here, and yeah, I just feel very comfortable on this track.
“It’s so much fun to be playing The Open, playing for the Claret Jug. It’s the biggest tournament that I can play in. Playing it around St Andrews makes it obviously a lot more special. I think every time I come here, even if it’s for the Dunhill Links Championship, if I play around St Andrews, I really enjoy the track. I love playing it.”
He has no illusions about what awaits him: “I think knowing I’ve done it before at this golf course, I will take a lot from that. But there’s a lot of golf that needs to be played. Jordan (Spieth) is obviously looking at making history, so you can expect him to fire on early and to really be up there. Jason (Day) is playing unbelievably. There’s so many players that can still win this. I think it’s going to be one of the tightest Opens.”
But he might just be able to claim home ground advantage. “You know, The Open, playing it around here, I wish they had it here every year.”