Wyand Stander knows the look in Louis Oosthuizen’s eyes when he gets on a roll.
“It’s best to just leave him alone when he gets into that zone,” said Oosthuizen’s caddie after his boss tied The Players Championship record with six consecutive birdies on Saturday at the TPC Sawgrass Players Stadium Course. “Just walk with him.
Still, Oosthuizen seemed to be the most surprised person on the course about the streak. He had experienced 45 holes of what he called “horrible” putting, despite making his first Players cut in three career starts and shooting his career-low round on the Stadium Course with a 67 and a 5-under total of 211.
Whatever shortcomings Oosthuizen was experiencing on the greens, it all changed with 10 holes left.
Playing in the second twosome of the day in the third round, and on smooth greens, Oosthuizen began his streak at the par-5 ninth. He missed the small green but got up-and-down from a bunker and then made a putt of 3 feet, 8 inches. It stopped the bleeding on the greens, after he needed 11 putts in his first six holes.
Oosthuizen then began knocking down flags. His birdies at the next four holes, Nos. 10, 11, 12 and 13, all came on putts of 6 feet or less.
Oosthuizen didn’t hit it that close at the par-4 14th hole. He had a putt of 55 feet, 7 inches but dropped that long one to tie the record shared by six other players: Tom Watson, Dave Rummells, Fred Wadsworth, Paul Azinger, Rocco Mediate and Tim Herron.
At the 15th hole, Oosthuizen had a putt of 10 feet, 8 inches for seven birdies in a row. It took a peek at the hole then curled out.
“We read it right and I think I hit it through the break,” he said of the putt at No. 15.
The last player to birdie six in a hole at the Stadium was Tim Herron in 2005.
Oosthuizen made the cut on the even-par number after shooting 75 in the second round. That included a quadruple-bogey 8 at the par-4 18th. But he knocked eight strokes off that on Saturday and jumped from a tie for 63rd to a tie for 20th at the time he finished.
He had one other highlight, Saturday, chipping in for par from behind the green at No. 7.
Oosthuizen is confident with his tee-to-green game. No so the putting.
“I’m struggling to find consistency with the putter,” Oosthuizen said. “I’m either making them or putting horribly, which is pretty frustrating. I cam here with a lot of confidence in ball-sriking. I felt like I’m hitting it really good, giving myself loads of opportunities. But you need to make the putts around here and the greens aren’t easy.”
Oosthuizen made seven birdies in a row last year at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a PGA Tour playoff event.
It was one more streak in a week of birdie runs at The Players, beginning in the first round when Scott Stallings birdied five in a row. Sergio Garcia did it the following day and Tiger Woods birdied four in a row in the first round.
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