Oosthuizen has to settle for albatross at Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Louis Oosthuizen owns a piece of history at Augusta National.

He’d rather have a green jacket, but that double eagle will have to suffice.

After kicking off the day with the rare albatross, Oosthuizen came up short to Bubba Watson in a playoff at the Masters Sunday, outdone by perhaps the only shot more spectacular than his. Unable to see the flag, Watson managed to hook a wedge off the pine needles to 10 feet on the second playoff hole while the South African couldn’t get up and down from in front of the green.

“It was tough after that double eagle. When something like that happens early in your round, you think that this is it,” Oosthuizen said. “It’s a hard day, but you know, congrats to Bubba. He did brilliantly.”

Despite a commanding win at the British Open in 2010 and one of the sweetest, smoothest swings in the game, Oosthuizen is still largely an unknown, even among the golf crowd. Maybe it’s because he splits his time between the European and PGA tours. Maybe it’s because he’s so low-key his idea of a good time is hunkering down on his farm in South Africa.

But he has the game to hang with anyone.

While everyone else was measuring Phil Mickelson for his fourth green jacket Sunday morning, defending champion Charl Schwartzel was putting his money on his countryman and junior golf buddy.

“I think he’s playing the best out of everyone up there,” Schwartzel said. “He’s hot right now.”

That albatross is sure to grab everyone’s attention.

In the fairway on No. 2, from 253 yards out, he blasted a 4-iron onto the front, than watched it roll from the front of the green to the back and into the hole. Oosthuizen raised both hands in the air and high-fived his caddie as fans let out a roar that shook the Georgia pines all the way to Amen Corner.

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“I knew if I get it right, it’s going to feed toward the hole,” he said. “But never thought it would go in.”

It was the first double eagle ever on No. 2, and only the fourth in the 76 years of the Masters. It was the most famous albatross at Augusta since the one Gene Sarazen knocked in on No. 15 en route to a playoff victory in 1935 — known as the shot that put the Masters on the map.

“I just wanted to run over there and give him a high five,” Watson said. “As a fan of golf, that’s what you love watching and I got to see it front row.”

Oosthuizen sauntered to the cup and plucked the ball out. But forget about saving it for some grand trophy case back home, that’s not his style. He flipped it into the crowd, instead.

But the albatross was, well, a bit of an albatross.

“It was tough the next five holes to just get my head around it and just play the course,” Oosthuizen acknowledged.

He finally settled down about the 11th hole, but made only two more birdies the rest of the day. And both were on par-5s, where birdies may as well be pars for the way the long holes play at Augusta National.

Watson, meanwhile, made four straight birdies on the back nine to join Oosthuizen atop the leaderboard.

Forced into a playoff when neither could make a birdie on 18, Oosthuizen headed toward the putting green after signing his card only to find it had been taken over for the green jacket ceremony. Security led him back through the clubhouse, where a group of fans greeted him with applause.

Not so fast.

Beginning on 18, Oosthuizen thought he had it won on the first playoff hole. His approach from 150 yards out curled down and stopped 15 feet from the cup. The putt looked true as it rolled but it slid along the upper edge of the cup and refused to drop.

Oosthuizen’s knees buckled, and he buried his face in his hands.

“I thought it was in. There was no way that could stop turning,” he said. “It turned the whole way, and about a foot short of the hole just stopped turning. So you know, I thought it was over by then.”

But Watson missed his birdie putt, too, and they moved on to No. 10, the second playoff hole. When Watson launched his tee shot so far right it landed behind the gallery, Oosthuizen had another opportunity.

“And I like the tee shot on 10. So after he hit it in the trees there, I felt confident and just probably spun a bit out of it, catching it off the heel,” he said. “It just left me a lot further back than I wanted to be.”

He left himself short on his second shot, then flew the green. When Watson hooked his shot out of trouble and onto the green, Oosthuizen was all but finished.

“It’s fine,” Oosthuizen said. “He hit an unbelievable shot there. I played well. This is not one where I felt like I played badly. Great stuff to him, he deserves it.”

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