Tuesday 12 December 2017

Oosthuizen holds nerve in Malaga to end title wait

Mark Garrod

No amount of noisy parakeets, even louder jets or sunbathing nudists nearby could distract Louis Oosthuizen from finally claiming his first European Tour title yesterday.

A week after losing a three-shot lead and having his fourth runners-up finish, the 27-year-old South African lifted the Andalucian Open in Malaga by three shots from Scot Peter Whiteford and England's Richard Finch. The victory lifts Oosthuizen back into the world's top 50 just in time to earn him a second successive trip to The Masters and he said it was: "unbelievable -- that was my goal two months ago."

After dropping to 75th in the rankings he then came second and third in successive weeks in his home country, but even last weekend's near-miss left him almost certainly having to win at the Parador course to make it to Augusta.

Oosthuizen did it in impressive fashion, taking over at the top with a second day 63 and closing with rounds of 66 and 67 for a 17 under aggregate of 263. After being drenched in champagne by fellow countryman Thomas Aiken and then kissing his wife and three-month-old daughter Jana he added: "I was quite nervous down the stretch and very nervous on the 18th tee. I just decided to hit it as hard as I could."

As for not letting another victory slip from his grasp, the former amateur team-mate of current European Tour number one Charl Schwartzel stated: "I knew I was good enough to win one.

"Now I want to stay in the top 50 and be competitive every time I play."

Ireland's top-finishers in Malaga were Simon Thornton (68), Michael Hoey (69) and Gareth Maybin (72), who tied for 36th on three-under, earning €6500 each.

Yet Paul McGinley, one stroke back in 45th (€4900), was most satisfied of the Emerald Islanders after completing all 72 holes problem-free in only his second tournament back since knee surgery last November.

After fighting his way into contention with Friday's 66, McGinley looked tired during Saturday's 74. However, he recuperated and turned out a nice display yesterday, posting a level-par 70, despite an unlucky double-bogey six at 18, where his ball cannoned out-of-bounds off a tree trunk.

Darren Clarke tried a belly putter as a final round 69 left him tied for 52nd (€3900) on one-under. Irish Open champ Shane Lowry also shot a 69 as he rounded off his week in 64th (€2150) on two-over.

Peter Lawrie had a disastrous quintuple-bogey nine at 18, a final round 75 leaving the Dubliner in 77th on six-over (€1478).

Gary Murphy, meanwhile, birdied that hole but still tied last with Julien Quesne on eight-over (€1469) after a disappointing 73.

Irish Independent

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