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Oosthuizen wins British Open by 7 strokes

South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen with the Claret

South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen with the Claret Jug, the trophy for the Champion golfer of the year after winning the 139th British Open Golf Championship at St Andrews in Scotland, on July 18, 2010. His final round of 71, 1 under par, on day four of the Championship gave him a final total of 272, 16 under par, 7 shots clear of English golfer Lee Westwood in second place. AFP PHOTO/GLYN KIRK (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)(Photo Credit should Read /AFP/Getty Images) Photo Credit: Getty/GLYN KIRK

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland - A matter of believing. That's what Louis Oosthuizen said, about himself. But five days ago, who would have believed he would win the British Open? Who other than the golfing cognoscenti even knew of Louis Oosthuizen, or how to pronounce his name (WUHST-hy-zen)?

Zach Johnson was a surprise when he grabbed the 2007 Masters. And the standard for upsets remains Jack Fleck, who, then a pro at a driving range, stunned the immortal Ben Hogan in a playoff for the 1955 U.S. Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club.

But this ranks up there among surprises in major tournaments. Or did until the end of the second round. Oosthuizen, a 27-year-old South African, in effect won the 139th British Open on Friday, when he finished before the arrival of wind so strong that it caused play to be suspended for an hour and ruined the rest of the field.

He was four shots in front of Paul Casey before teeing off Sunday below the steps of the imposing granite headquarters of the Royal & Ancient Club. Oosthuizen was seven shots ahead when he took the greatest walk in golf, along the 18th fairway of the Old Course, with fans leaning from the windows of the adjoining buildings and cheering wildly.

With a 1-under-par 71, Oosthuizen finished at 16-under 272, never giving anyone else a chance. Lee Westwood of England was a distant second at 70-279. Rory McIlroy, the 21-year-old from Northern Ireland who opened with a course-record 63, shot 68 for 280. That tied McIlroy for third with Casey (75) and Henrik Stenson.

Americans Sean O'Hair and Nick Watney were among four tied for seventh at 282, and Jeff Overton shared 11th at 283.

Tiger and Phil, 1-2 in the world rankings? Woods, three-putting his way to agony and making two double bogeys, shot 72-285 and tied for 23rd. Mickelson, with a poor history in British Opens, stumbled in with a 75 for 289 and a tie for 48th.

The two highlights of Oosthuizen's career, in a manner of speaking, had been his first victory on the European Tour, at the Andalucia Open in March, and then a win in the lighthearted Masters par-3 contest. This is a bit bigger.

"Everyone told me I had the ability,'' Oosthuizen said, "but it was a matter of me believing.''

He's nicknamed "Shrek'' because of a gap in his front teeth.

"My win at Malaga got my mind around things,'' he said. "The way I played at Pebble [in the U.S. Open last month], missing the cut, was disappointing. This week was something different. I made good putts when I had to. I rarely missed a putt under 6 feet.''

Oosthuizen was playing his first Open on the Old Course, and his victory brought back memories of the late Tony Lema. Never having played the British, Lema showed up at St. Andrews in 1964 and without a practice round came in first.

Lema was known as "Champagne Tony,'' because during a tournament in Southern California, he saw the press drinking beer and told them, "If I win, tomorrow you drink champagne.'' He bought it. Sunday, after his win, Oosthuizen had champagne delivered to the media tent.

He is the fourth South African to take the Open, joining Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Ernie Els. On the morning news, Oosthuizen heard that Sunday was the 92nd birthday of former South African president Nelson Mandela.

"It felt a bit special out there,'' Oosthuizen said. "When I walked down 18, I thought about his birthday. What he's done for our country is unbelievable.''

That's a word some might use to describe Oosthuizen's triumph.

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