It’s not the list that any golfer aspires to qualify for, but Louis Oosthuizen joined some very select company last summer by completing the career runner-up slam.
Only seven golfers in history have claimed a runner-up finish in each major championship. The six others Oosthuizen joined with his tie for second in the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow are all enshrined in the World Golf Hall of Fame: Craig Wood, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson.
Oosthuizen and Watson are the only two to also add runner-up finishes in The Players Championship.
“A friend texted my caddie on the plane, and he read the text saying, ‘Congratulations, you finished the career grand slam seconds,’” said Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews before his run of seconds ever commenced. “Which really isn’t something I should be very proud of. You wonder, where are the wins?”
Oosthuizen, however, heralded the moment by tweeting out a lip-sync performance to Andra Day’s “Rise Up” – a candid family moment trying to entertain his children that went viral before he got home on his flight from Charlotte, N.C.
“When we landed my wife said you won’t believe how many likes I got already, and the next morning it was ridiculous,” he said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that big a thing.”
There isn’t a lot of fanfare for finishing runner-up in major events, but Oosthuizen’s second-place finishes in the Masters Tournament (2012), U.S. Open (2015), British Open (2015), PGA (2017), Players (2017) and WGC Match Play (2016) certainly paint a picture of consistent competence on the biggest stages.
“It feels like you can play every one and you’ve got a chance of winning every one,” Oosthuizen said. “I take a lot from that to have done it. But at the end of the day, they are going to remember the guys that won the majors and not who finished second.”
Some of his close calls are more disappointing than others. At Chambers Bay and Quail Hollow, Oosthuizen made massive rallies just to get onto the podium at the end. His playoff losses at Augusta and St. Andrews, however, had a little more sting.
“Part of it is frustrating,” he admitted. “Players, I didn’t feel I played great the last round, which was frustrating. PGA, I felt I was too far back so finishing second at the end was really good. Very frustrating with the Open at St. Andrews in ’15. That one I felt like no one was really going to catch me. I just had that attitude the whole week and it was a tough finish for me when the wind changed on the last four and I did brilliant to even get into the playoff (with eventual winner Zach Johnson and Marc Leishman). I felt like I had all the momentum and should have done a better job on the 17th in the playoff.”
As far as the Masters in 2012, when Bubba Watson carved a massive hook from deep in the trees on the 10th hole to save par and win on the second playoff hole, Oosthuizen doesn’t beat himself up.
“If someone hits that type of shot against you, there’s not much you can do,” he said. “If he’d hit an average shot out of there, I probably would have hit a better chip. All of the sudden I have to be very aggressive on my shot and didn’t pull it off. You get beat on a shot like that, you’ve just got to take it.”
Oosthuizen will make his 10th Masters start, and he comes back carrying relatively good form having played five weeks in a row to build momentum before taking a week’s rest before Augusta.
“I feel like I’m playing good and everything is working,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting everything really sharp before Augusta. Augusta is obviously a very special place, and I think the more you play it, the more comfortable you get around that golf course. It’s one I love and I really enjoy it. I just need to get the game right.”
Should he avoid another near miss and rise up to win a green jacket, Oosthuizen doesn’t plan to reprise his lip-syncing in Butler Cabin.
“I don’t think they’ll like that, so probably not,” he said.