Louis Oosthuizen fights back to second-place U.S. Open finish

Louis Oosthuizen nearly won a second career major Sunday at the U.S. Open. Instead, he settled for his second runner-up finish in a Grand Slam event. Harry How/Getty Images

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- He could only stand by and watch, his work done after a remarkable comeback, the unlikeliness of contending difficult to comprehend.

Louis Oosthuizen had shot a final-round 67 at Chambers Bay that included five straight birdies on the back nine and was only denied a chance at a possible playoff for the U.S. Open title when Jordan Spieth birdied the final hole to edge ahead of him by a stroke.

The South African ended up in a tie for second with Dustin Johnson, who three-putted the last green to squander a shot at victory and a chance to be in a playoff. And while he couldn't add a second major championship to his résumé, Oosthuizen was hardly disappointed afterward.

"I think after my start during the first round, I'm very happy for where I am now," Oosthuizen said.

That would be the 77 he shot on Thursday while playing with Tiger Woods (80) and Rickie Fowler (81). The group was 28 over par for the day, and seemingly headed out of town.

Woods and Fowler followed the script, missing the cut by a mile. But even after a poor start on Friday and being 9 over par through 20 holes, Oosthuizen managed to fight back. He played the remaining 16 holes in 6 under to shoot 66 on Friday and make the cut.

And then he added a 66 and a 67 on the weekend for an improbable second-place finish.

"I just kept on playing," said Oosthuizen, whose back-nine 29 tied a U.S. Open record. "You get rounds like that. But proud of myself [for] the way I came back and kept on playing and knew my game was not far off. That 77 -- I could have easily had a horrible Friday and watched this on television."

Oosthuizen would have been an interesting part of history had he been able to overcome that 77 and go on to win. No player had shot that high and won the U.S. Open since Sam Parks Jr. in 1935 at Oakmont.

But times were much different then. Parks won with a 72-hole total of 299. Nobody has shot that high to win since.

Oosthuizen obviously had much more ground to make up. He was 11 under par over his final three rounds. And the 2010 Open Championship winner at St. Andrews, who lost in a Masters playoff to Bubba Watson in 2012, leaves Chambers Bay with a good bit of confidence.

"You sort of forget how you play when you get in that situation of having a chance to win a major," he said. "The last time I felt that was in 2012 at Augusta. It was nice being in that spot again. I felt very relaxed. I felt eager to get to the next hole and try and get some birdies going. I wasn't nervous at all.

"I'll take a lot out of this week, especially the last three days the way I played. I could have easily shot a big number after that start. I just fought and tried to have a good week."