Oosthuizen’s persistence pays off with impressive rally at U.S. Open

South African Louis Oosthuizen trailed the leaders by 12 strokes after a first-round 77 at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

He went to bed that night with the goal of working on a few things to improve his game, knowing well that he’d likely be home on the weekend.

“I didn’t give myself much chance,” he said. “But I never gave up. Even if you’re playing badly, you want to work on something … just to take it into the next week. I started hitting the ball better and better and better as I went through the second round, and I hit it really well today.”

He did, indeed, scoring back-to- back 66s to stand at 1-under par heading into Sunday’s final round.

“It just shows you to never give up, especially on a golf course like this,” he said. “If you play well and you shoot 1- or 2-under, you can really climb the leaderboard.”

Oosthuizen was 9-over par after his first 20 holes. He’s gone 10-under in the 34 holes that followed.

And it could have been much better.

“I gave myself loads of birdie opportunities, which is what you want to try to do around here,” he said, citing five missed putts of makeable lengths. “The greens are so firm now, and (the grass) is pretty dead, so you need to work the slopes on the greens to get it close. I did that today. But it’s still a challenge to make a lot of putts on those greens.”

Oosthuizen said he corrected a few things with his driver at the range Saturday morning, and most importantly, he kept a good attitude.

“I was really proud of myself the way I came back,” he said. “It’s going to be exciting from where I came back from. If I hit it the way I did today, I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of putting a good number out there again.”

Oosthuizen has the credentials to contend, having won the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews by seven strokes. He was runner-up at the Masters in 2012.

Born Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen in Mossel Bay, just east of Cape Town, the 32-year-old got his start at the knee of Ernie Els, whose foundation was aimed at identifying talented young South African players.

His family, of modest means, could not have afforded the expenses of junior golf without that assistance.