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A spectacular upset





And so, Louis Oosthuizen’s wait for glory on US soil goes on. In fact, he’s accrued just the one victory anywhere in the world since defending his Volvo Golf Champions title at Durban Country Club in early 2014.

Distinctly underwhelming indeed, although that would be a grossly unfair charge to level at him for his efforts this past week in the Players Championship, even if he may feel that it got away from him over the weekend.

In fact, it was a week in which he gave us many reasons to believe that a return to top form is already upon us. There was his steady start on Thursday as the realisation set in that TPC Sawgrass was carrying a lot more bite than usual. On Friday, he seemed free of the shackles of inconsistency which have plagued him, and although it wasn’t an entirely flawless round, his putting was simply spellbinding en route to a 66.

He was clearly unsettled by the wind on Saturday, but again the putter limited the damage to good effect. As for Sunday, well, kudos to Kim Si-woo – he just did not give an inch. Oosthuizen did himself no favours with that costly double bogey on the fourth hole, nor with a couple of bogeys on the back nine. But such errors are an inevitability with the course set up the way it was, and a much fairer analysis would be to point out that the 34-year-old hung in courageously, while numerous others fell by the wayside.

Oosthuizen, though, has shown signs in recent weeks that things have begun to move in the right direction. The same, though, could not be said for Ian Poulter, whose Lazarus-like renaissance was nothing short of extraordinary. Like him or not (and this scribe certainly does not), there is a tangible sense of theatre that the Englishman brings to the game, which was aptly encapsulated by his travails on the final hole. The highs and lows of one of golf’s divisive characters in a nutshell, right there.

Such excitement tends to be a given at the Players, as was typified by Rafa Cabrera Bello’s albatross at 16 on Sunday, and compatriot Sergio Garcia’s hole in one at the peerless 17th hole on Thursday. A challenging course like that invariably lends itself to twists, turns, intrigue and the spectacular. By all accounts, a gripping week’s golf, with a worthy champion at the end of it.

Yet controversial Golf Channel commentator Brandel Chamblee – who also managed to get himself into a Twitter spat with the obliging Poulter on Sunday – offered a different take on the setup of the iconic layout.

“This (Kim’s victory) is, from a statistical standpoint, perhaps the greatest upset you’ll ever see. You’re talking about a guy in the ‘All-Around’ statistic, that measures pretty much everything, that was dead-last on the PGA Tour.

“Yet, because of the distance constrictions of this golf course, the very best players cannot play their best game. It’s not Tiger-proof, it’s superstar-proof. And so it turns into a scrambling contest. And who won the scrambling contest? Kim Si-woo.”

As it happened, Kim managed to find the fairway just 39 times out of 56, while he hit only 62.5 per cent of greens in regulation. And scrambling statistics of 22 out of 27 were indeed the best in the field.

But isn’t that what superstars do? Yes, there were a few more irons off the tee last week than we’re accustomed to seeing on the PGA Tour. But I don’t recall Tiger Woods pummelling opponents because he topped the fairway or green in regulation statistics. He did it by holing clutch putts, shot-making, scrambling and exhibiting a superhuman X-factor.

The unheralded Kim clearly doesn’t boast the latter, but he delivered all the other aforementioned qualities in spades. And, in my book, it made for far more compelling viewing than the weekly shootout we’ve grown accustomed to, where scores nudge or breach the 20-under par barrier more often than not. It’s what makes the PGA Tour’s flagship event so special and unique, and I for one wouldn’t have changed a thing – well, other than Louis winning it, of course.


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