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Oosthuizen cruises as Americans fail to fire

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa hits his tee

Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the third round. (July 17, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - For America, it's red, white and very blue. The British Open appears closed to anyone on the other side of the Atlantic.

The guy in front is from South Africa, the guy in second from England, the guy in third from Germany and the players tied for fifth are from Sweden, Spain and England.

"It looks like the European Ryder Cup team,'' someone apprised Tiger Woods, despite the fact that South Africa is not part of Europe.

Said Woods: "I haven't even looked. We all know them as just players.''

A Northern Irishman, Graeme McDowell, took the U.S. Open a month ago at Pebble Beach. At St. Andrews, where Woods won the previous two Opens and John Daly won the Open in 1995, there's no hope for America.

Louis Oosthuizen, the South African, stormed along Saturday. The 27-year-old Oosthuizen, who in three previous Opens never made a cut, shot his third straight sub-70 round, an elegant 3-under-par 69.

With 18 holes to play, he's at 15-under 201 and four ahead of Englishman Paul Casey, who, if it gives anyone in the United States consolation, did attend Arizona State and lives most of the year in Scottsdale. He had a 5-under 67 for 205.

Martin Kaymer of Germany, who also resides in Arizona, shot 68 for 208, and Henrik Stenson of Sweden (67), Alejandro Canizares of Spain (71) and Lee Westwood of England (71) share fourth.

Finally come golfers with U.S. passports. Dustin Johnson, who led the Pebble Beach Open after 54 holes, is seventh at 210 after a 69. Nick Watney (71), Sean O'Hair (72) and Ricky Barnes (72) - nearly the man at Bethpage Black last year - are tied for eighth with South Africa's Retief Goosen. Woods is tied for 18th.

And if there are no Americans truly contending, there are 15 among the top 38 scores. Good depth. No stars.

Johnson said he's in a spot - nine back - where he has "a chance,'' but that's probably being overly optimistic. It isn't only the differential, it's the number of people he would have to pass.

"That's why I practice,'' Johnson, who lives in South Carolina, said of making a charge. "That's why I'm here.''

Maybe what happened to Johnson in the U.S. Open, a triple-bogey on the second hole the final round, a double on the third, happens to Oosthuizen, who like Johnson at Pebble Beach never has been in the pressure of trying to win a major.

But Saturday, after a bogey on the first hole, Oosthuizen (it's prounounced "West-high-sen'') didn't make another. "I was quite nervous on the first,'' he said, "but then I got myself together.''

That's something the golfers first and second in the world rankings, a couple of Americans named Woods and Phil Mickelson, have been unable to do all week. Tiger shot a second straight 1-over 73 for 213 - 12 shots behind - Mickelson a 70 for 214.

When it was mentioned to Tiger that he would have to climb a large hill to get past Oosthuizen, he said: "It certainly is, but you don't know what the weather is going to do . . . Hopefully, I can get some momentum going early. I'm playing well.''

The scoreboard would indicate no one is playing as well through three rounds as Oosthuizen. "Yeah,'' he said, "I'm swinging it nicely. Probably when they saw my first putt, people expected I could lose it, but I kept positive and made two good par saves the first six holes.

"I'm really happy with myself, keeping my emotions intact.''

And keeping the Americans at a distance.

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