How does a hooked wedge shot trump a double eagle, the game’s rarest feat? Easy, if the former leads to a Masters victory as it did for Bubba Watson last April on the second playoff hole against Louis Oosthuizen. Earlier that Sunday, the South African Oosthuizen catapulted into the tournament lead and golf lore by registering an albatross—three under par—at the par-five 2nd, the first double eagle on that hole in Masters history. However, the 2010 British Open champion finished regulation play tied with Watson then lost in a sudden-death playoff following Watson’s incredible shot out of the trees on the 10th. The following week, Oosthuizen, 30, bounced back and won the Malaysian Open on the European Tour, where he’s now won five times. On the eve of this year’s Masters, he chatted with Terry Moore.
Was it a challenge to keep your emotions in check after the double eagle?
Yes, it took awhile to settle in because all of a sudden I’m leading the tournament. My whole mindset before then was to be patient and not get ahead of myself. I’d even considered the possibility of leading the tournament somewhere on the back nine, but not the first.
Were you aware that the patron who caught your historic ball was rewarded for giving it to the club?
I was informed afterwards by Mr. [Masters Chairman Billy] Payne that the gentleman would receive lifetime badges to the Masters and also have a golf day there. In fact, Mr. Payne actually returned the ball to me after the round. I signed it and gave it back because I felt the ball should remain with the golf course. But I will always have the memory of that shot.
In the playoff against Bubba, you made some great putts that must have looked as if they were in the hole.
Definitely. On the first putt on 18, I really thought I made it because I’ve been watching that particular putt for years on television. A number of players have had that putt to win. So I knew what it was going to do. I hit it exactly on the right line and it looked like it was going to fall right into the cup. Then a foot from the cup it stopped breaking and grazed the lip.
On the 10th hole putting for par, I was under a lot of pressure to make it knowing Bubba was so close for birdie. That putt was so quick but I decided to hit it at normal speed, aim at the top side, and just let it break inside the cup. Again, a foot from the cup it looked perfect and then it just broke below the hole.
What happened on your 3-wood tee shot off the 10th hole in the playoff?
I simply hit on the heel and it didn’t get down the hill. So I left myself with a really long second shot. If I had hit my tee shot well it would have run down the hill leaving myself only a 7-iron.
How surprised were you when you saw Bubba’s second shot out of the trees find the green on the final hole of the playoff?
Actually, I wasn’t sure what type of shot he had because I wanted to play my own game. But even seeing his shot on tape, I wouldn’t have played my shot any differently. And looking at his second shot, it was a perfect shot to hook it for a left-hander. A right-handed golfer would have simply chipped it out. Still, it was one heckuva shot for Bubba to pull off.
During your Open Championship title romp at St. Andrews, you put a red dot on your glove to help you concentrate? Are you still doing that?
No. I needed it then because I was struggling with my pre-shot routine and needed something to keep me focused. It worked that week. My focus is better and more consistent now. Sometimes I go back to it but in different ways. But I’m always working on something, whether a pre-shot routine or a particular swing cue.
Talk about your early golf days.
Actually, my brother started playing golf first and I followed him. I picked up a few clubs and just started playing. After seeing my interest in golf, my dad took me to a professional coach and I received a full set of clubs. I was on my way, thanks to the junior program. As a teenager, I was helped by the Els Foundation with tournament expenses, travel, and coaching.
It was a privilege to grow up on a farm and be in the open spaces. I drove each day from the farm to town and the golf course. I even had a little green on the farm but a flood came along and took it away. I’ve always been a farm boy and still have a farm in South Africa.
How does your game this year compare to last year at this time?
I would say they’re similar. It always takes a few weeks to get used to the conditions and courses over here. I’m working on a few things and they’re going well. We’ll see how they turn out.
Photography by Ray Carlin/IconSMI (driving), ZumaPress/IconSMI (in fairway, patron), ISM (trophy).