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Another Afrikaner golfer, Ernie Els, who won the 2002 British Open, had an early interest in tennis. Were it not for the Ernie Els Foundation, which supports promising junior golfers in South Africa, Louis Oosthuizen might have learned to like milking a cow. He would have had to do something to make a living. He was done with school at 18. Louis thanks the Big Easy at every turn, in word and deed. Oosthuizen has started a junior golf academy at his home club in South Africa.
That club is called Mossel Bay, near Albertinia, a linksy, par-72 windswept course on the Indian Ocean. "I feel right at home here," Louis said last week of the Old Course. It showed. He turned in rounds of 65, 67, 69 and 71. That adds up to 16 under par, in winds so strong that play had to be suspended for an hour on Friday. Tiger Woods has the Old Course scoring record for an Open, 19 under par in 2000, when it was weirdly calm for four straight days.
At Mossel Bay, Oosthuizen has shot 59 and 57. "The 59 was better," the club's manager, Bertu Nel, said on Sunday. "Tougher conditions. Word got out that he was shooting a low score, and 50 or 60 members came out to see him finish. He had to make a putt from off the green for 59, and he did. He has what we call BMT—big match temperament."
He has an endearing humility too. "No one can actually say my surname," Oosthuizen said last week. Spectators, he said, "don't even know who I am." His caddie is humble too. In the hours before the final round began, Rasego was helping another caddie wheel suitcases through the crowded, ancient streets of St. Andrews.
The player and the caddie have worked together since 2003, introduced by a black tour pro from South Africa, James Kamte. Kamte and Oosthuizen and other European tour pros were at the BMW International in Munich on the night that South Africa was playing France in the World Cup. "Louis said, 'Let's go watch the football,' " Kamte recalled on Sunday. "I was very moved. Rugby is the game of white South Africa. Football is the game of black South Africa."
The world's changing. Tiger Woods hasn't won a major in more than two years now, and a player whose surname you cannot pronounce just won golf's oldest championship by seven.
On Sunday night the winner's caddie was asked, "Have you ever been to Mossel Bay?"
"Yes," Rasego said. "For Louis's wedding. My wife and I went for the wedding."
Caddies and players don't stay together forever, not usually. It's what they do when they are together that matters.
"When he hugged me, that meant the world to me," Rasego said on Sunday night. The golf was over, and kids and grown-ups were strolling all over the Old Course, the world's greatest muni. "It meant he looked at me not just as a worker, but as a partner."