As the pros and amateur congregated here at the Links Championship congratulated each other for surviving Friday’s “Great Dunhill Deluge” with that brand of gallows humour seemingly unique to golf, Louis Oosthuizen was feeling weather relief rather more serious than soggy grips and saturated waterproofs.
The South African’s Ocala ranch was positioned to be in the forecasted eye of Hurricane Ian when it hit Florida last week, but it switched track and, while mindful of the huge destruction caused by the category-form storm that could turn out to be could be the deadliest in the state's history, Oostuizen could play at his beloved Old Course on Saturday knowing that everything was ok at home.
They were glad to see him in the Auld Grey Toon where he won the Open in 2010 in such emphatic style. Indeed, even his fellow players were happy to have Oosthuizen there as the sole St Andrews Open winner in the field and that was no mean feat considering his status as a member of the Saudi-funded circuit.
Oosthuizen has emerged as the acceptable face of LIV Golf, managing to escape the most febrile accusations of “sportswashing” and of doing the bidding of a murderous regime. He has been praised by both Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner, and Keith Pelley, the DP World Tour chief executive, for the conciliatory manner in which he jumped ship, vowing not to criticise the circuits that helped make him a multi-millionaire but simply to take an opportunity that could not have been better timed.
“I chatted to them and explained my position and said it was nothing at all to do with their product or how I’d been treated or anything,” he said. “But I’m turning 40 in a few weeks, was only maybe going to have another year on the grind of tours and, honestly, I was completely done with playing a full schedule.
And then LIV came along with an offer estimated at £40million. “Initially I wasn't sure, but I sat down with my wife [Nel Mare] and when we looked it just all fitted together. We’d moved into the ranch in spring - we were brought up around farms and it was always our aim to have our own - and thought ‘why not? Let’s go for it - this is right for us. People might wonder ‘well, you finished runner-up in two majors last year, with four top threes in two years’ and say ‘you’re so close to to getting a second’ and it did give me another burst, another lease of my sporting life. And I won’t retire, full-stop, I’ll just play less.
“The thing is it was never the plan to keep going and going, there are other things I want to do with my life. Golf is brilliant in that it gives you these options to continue as a pro, but there is a danger that it just decides for you what’s next and for me I didn’t want just to stay on that path of playing all the time. With its 14 events and maybe one or two extra here and there - including of course the Open - LIV gives me that chance for the next few years. Maybe I would join the European Tour again, as you only need to play four events or so. Things need to happen for that to be possible.”
A court hearing in February will decide if Pelley has the power to ban LIV rebels, but even if that does come to pass and the PGA Tour’s bans are upheld in an American legal case, Oosthuizen is confident the civil war will end one day.
“I saw what Rory [McIlroy] said here earlier this week about the game ripping itself apart and the need for the guys in all camps to get together and talk and figure something out and, in truth, I’ve always thought that’s inevitable eventually.
“LIV isn't going anywhere and, of course, neither are the Tours and after the lawyers do their thing, it will come to a point when they will all get around a table and find a solution. I’m not sure where I’ll be in my career by then, but it needs to happen. There is no need for any animosity. I’ve encountered none here this week and that’s the way it should be.”
At last month’s BMW PGA Championship in Wentworth, the LIV golfers were ostracised for their very presence, but with Johann Rupert, South Africa’s richest man, pulling the strings he was determined that similar ill-feeling would not reign in Fife. The Dunhill billionaire set the tone by choosing to partner Oosthuizen and on the eve of the $5million pro-am his media team made Rupert’s own plea for “a cessation of hostilities which are threatening the future of our game”.
For four days at least. “They’ll probably resume again, but this is the Home of Golf and, as Mr Rupert says, it should be about all that’s good about the game,” Oosthuizen said. “It should not be about talking about LIV and the Tours, it’s a fun week. Golf should and will be the winner.”