Zurich Classic: Louis Oosthuizen has perfect partner ahead of bid to crack America

South African has great pal Charl Schwartzel alongside him as he bids for a first win on US soil; the duo lead the pairs event by a shot with 18 to play.

It remains one of golf's curiosities that a player of Louis Oosthuizen's class has yet to post a victory on American soil.

He does officially have a PGA Tour win. But, of course, that 2010 Open Championship triumph took place at the Home of Golf in Scotland when he demolished the field by seven shots at St. Andrews.

In America, though, it's been a string of near misses: losing a play-off at the 2012 Masters, finishing runner-up in the 2015 US Open and having to settle for second spot in both the 2017 PGA Championship and PLAYERS Championship.

But this time as he bids to finally get over the line, Oosthuizen has one of his best mates to help out, childhood friend Charl Schwartzel.

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With 18 holes to play in the 2021 Zurich Classic of New Orleans pairs event, the South African duo lead the way on 19-under after combining for a brilliant 63 in Saturday's second round of fourballs.

That's the good news; the bad is that their lead is a precarious one.

Aussies Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith and American pairing Tony Finau and Cameron Champ are just a shot back. And just two adrift are another US double act, Bubba Watson and Scottie Scheffler, along with Norwegians Viktor Hovland and Kris Ventura.

In fact, the top 17 teams all lie between -15 and -19; this is going to be a wild final-round shootout and it's reflected in the betting:

Paddy Power: 11/4 Oosthuizen/Schwartzel, 10/3 Smith/Leishman, 7/2 Finau/Champ, 15/2 Watson/Scheffler, 10/1 Hovland/Ventura, 25/1 Rahm/Palmer, 30/1 Pieters/Lewis, 33/1 Bradley/Steele.

Stats

Since the team format was introduced to this event in 2017, the 54-hole leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win twice. So Oosthuizen and Schwartzel are in great position.

Oosthuizen has had trouble converting third-round PGA Tour advantages; he's managed to do it just once in five attempts (that 2010 Open win), hence that lack of a victory on American turf.

Schwartzel finished second the only time he had one (2010 Doral) but, perhaps crucially, he does have winning experience Stateside.

Famously, he landed the 2011 Masters at Augusta after birdieing the final four holes while he added a second victory in the 2016 Valspar Championship in Florida. A victory here in 2021 would keep that five-year pattern going nicely!

Who fared best at foursomes?

Oosthuizen and Schwartzel have put themselves top thanks to two rounds of 9-under 63 in fourballs (Thursday and Saturday).

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But, as everyone did, they found the going much tougher in foursomes and managed only a 1-under 71 in round two's alternate-shot format.

So here's a fun game to play: if the top eight teams repeated their Friday foursomes scores, who would win the title? This is how it would look:

-22 Finau/Champ (68)

-20 Oosthuizen/Schwartzel (71), Watson/Scheffler (69), Hovland/Ventura (69)

-18 Leishman/Smith (72), Pieters/Lewis (70)

-15 Duncan/Schenk (73), Bradley/Steele (73)

Ironically, the story about a high-profile player getting a first win on American soil would still play out.

However, instead of Oosthuizen, that man would be Tony Finau, whose only previous PGA Tour success came in Puerto Rico.

Quotes

Louis Oosthuizen looking ahead to Sunday: "I mean, look, it's going to be tough tomorrow. I think anyone within four shots of the lead has got a chance with the format that it is tomorrow. It's going to be tough. We need to play really well. The way the wind is the whole week, I think the golf course plays very tough, especially in alternate-shot."

Charl Schwartzel: "I think Louis obviously played really well in a lot of Majors, and we've both won a lot of tournaments, and I feel like the more difficult it is, the better we both play, so the format for tomorrow in a way suits us, and if we execute the shots the way we see it, we'll have a good chance."

Marc Leishman on coming out in a mullet wig: "I ordered it on Amazon. I think it was $18. I was expecting to have to pay a lot more for it actually. Yeah, I guess if you pick a (walk-on) song like the mullet song you've got to commit to it. Thought I'd get the mullet up and grow one quick enough. Fertilizer doesn't quite work on hair like it does on grass. No, just a bit of fun. Got a few laughs on the first tee and lightened the mood, I guess, helped our start. We got off to a good start today. It probably won't come out tomorrow I don't think; concentrate on that first tee shot."

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Tony Finau on team chemistry: "I've enjoyed my time with Cameron (Champ). He's a heck of a player. I've been able to see it up close this week, and we've fed off each other nicely really. We ham-and-egged it the first day, ham-and-egged it today. When I was a little off, he picked me up; when he was a little off, I picked him up. That's the essence of team golf, and we're going to continue to enjoy ourselves tomorrow and see where the chips fall here after 18."

Scottie Scheffler on enjoying playing foursomes format with Bubba: "So I think for alternate-shot, especially the way he plays golf, I feel like I'm never going to put him in a bad spot. I feel like he can play from anywhere. I just have a lot of confidence in him and the way he plays golf, and it makes me really comfortable out there playing alternate-shot."

Social

Marc Leishman rocking a mullet alongside his partner Cameron Smith, Tony Finau's exquisite chip in, Wyndham Clark dancing with the alligators and Erik van Rooyen sinking 30-footers.

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First, it was 'Team SendIt', then 'Team Mullets' and now 'Team Footloose'.

Xander Schauffele letting rip.

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It's fair to say Viktor Hovland brings a lot of colour to the PGA TOUR.

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READ MORE: A look at Xander Schauffele's hopes of glory in the final three 2021 Majors

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