Golf | Can Louis master Augusta this year?

Cape Town – There can
have been no more frustrating loss in a major than when Louis Oosthuizen was
beaten by a shot that only Bubba Watson could produce in the 2012 Masters.

And as the
countdown to the first tee-time at Augusta National on April 7 continues,
Oosthuizen’s name is one of those most frequently added to the list on fans’
lips of players who can take the first major championship of 2016.

Oosthuizen’s name is joined in those conversations by those of Charl
Schwartzel, the man who won the 2011 Green Jacket, and Branden Grace, who took
a pair of heroic tilts at two majors last year with his share of fourth in the
US Open and his third-place finish in the PGA Championship.

Those three
South African names are supplemented by those of Ernie Els and 2008 Masters
champion Trevor Immelman. Els would dearly love to pull on a Green Jacket to
complete a career Grand Slam, and Immelman dreams of a return to his halcyon
days at Augusta.

Oosthuizen’s is the name that most pundits feel will be mentioned in the same breath
as Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy when it comes to the final round
on Sunday, April 10.

And it’s
more than just his 2012 Masters performance which is the reason for that: His
pair of second-place finishes in the US Open and the Open Championship last
year shows that the 2010 Open champion is in the kind of space where a second
major is a very real possibility. Those runner-up finishes last year made him
only the third player to have done that in those events in the same season.

And he
comes into the Masters as one of the hottest players in the world right now:
Since missing the cut in Dubai in January, the 33-year-old has strung together
five straight top-15 finishes including a win at the ISPS HANDA Perth
International and a runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play.

“The game
is good for Augusta,” said Oosthuizen.

“Augusta is on everyone’s minds right
now. And it’s shaping up very nicely. Augusta will be my seventh out of eight
weeks. I’ll have a month off after then. While I’m feeling great and I’m doing
the stuff I need to do, I want to play. If I’m playing well, I want to play
more events.”

But to
ignore the chances of Schwartzel would be foolish. It can’t be over-emphasised
how well he’s performed since he took a two-month break at the beginning of the
year following his historic fourth victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
He’s already twice a winner in 2016 with titles at the Tshwane Open and the
Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour.

When he
gets to a course he likes – and there is very little doubt that he likes
Augusta National – he can be very tough to stop.

And while
Grace’s history at Augusta is checkered – he shared 18th in 2013 and
missed the next two cuts – his appetite for performing well at majors has
become almost insatiable after his great showing in them in 2015. With a few
errors eliminated from his game, he could put daylight between himself and his
pursuers when the Masters rolls through Amen Corner on Sunday.

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