ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — At 6:30 Sunday night, a little guy named Louie waved his white cap, smiled his gap-tooth smile and walked up the most famous fairway in the world and into golfing lore.
Louis Oosthuizen, 27, of South Africa had won the British Open. Four days ago, those words would have brought everything from laughter to disbelief. He was on nobody's radar. Now, he was in everybody's heart.
In 1981, no more than 300 yards away on the West Sands of St. Andrews Bay, they had filmed the movie "Chariots of Fire." Sunday, on a golf course designed to tease and torture, Oosthuizen made stirring music of his own.
The swing that was supposed to fall apart, as the better-known players took aim and the pressure built, stayed smooth and rhythmic. It was a perfect pendulum. Up, down and through. No variance in tempo. No hitch or twitch. It was pure silk, like watching Jamaal Wilkes play basketball in his prime.
Oosthuizen's victory happened on a mellow Sunday that followed a blustery Thursday, Friday and Saturday and perfectly matched his temperament. His sweet personality seemed to deserve this sweet success, and it didn't take long for the thousands surrounding his final walk-up on the Old Course to understand the magnificence of what he had done and how he had handled himself while doing it.
They squeezed against the barricades along both sides of the fairway, four and five deep. They packed the grandstand at the back of the 18th green, crowded into balconies in the buildings along the right side and filled the windows of the famous and venerable Rusacks Hotel. From a hundred yards away, they could see the smile. More so, they could see the scoreboard.
He was 16 under par and his closest competitor, England's Lee Westwood, had putted out in the group before him and was 9 under. Oosthuizen's drive on the 357-yard closing par 4 had left him just below the green, maybe 30 yards away. To win, he needed to get down from there in nine.
"I'm definitely not going to 10-putt," he said later, laughing at himself, as usual.
When the last putt dropped and the storybook tale had become non-fiction, Oosthuizen hugged and kissed his wife of three years, Nel-Mare, and his daughter of seven months, Jana. Then he remembered Nelson Mandela's birthday in his acceptance speech.
For the moment, at least, golf had a new face. One that, with his gapped teeth, has drawn the nickname Shrek.
Those who watched him this week, watched him handle himself at the end, know he is the exact opposite of an ogre. His friends in South Africa gave him the label, and other tour pros, especially Westwood, have perpetuated it. Some might object. Not Louie.
"It's fine," he says.
In his news conference, he remembered to say all the right things, praising his playing partner, Paul Casey, for a good try; thanking South African legend Gary Player for an encouraging phone call Sunday morning; and being more grateful and self-effacing about his victory than the occasional arrogance that comes out on some Sundays in pro golf.
And then Oosthuizen outdid himself. Hours after his victory, he sent champagne into the press room.
Expect a long, successful and well-publicized career for this young man.