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Louis Oosthuizen Happy Just to Be Playing, With a Tendon Hanging By a Thread

The South African lost the lead late in Tucson and came up short in a playoff, but is doing well to compete through pain.

TUCSON, Ariz. — Louis Oosthuizen is familiar with the vagaries of golf, so when Danny Lee used a long putter from off the green and then saw the ball hop and trundle up to the hole, slam against the flagstick and drop in for an improbable win, the South African lost a tournament he knew sitting in the middle of the 17th fairway was his to win.

Losing is not unfamiliar to any professional golfer—it’s a game where you lose much more than you win—but for Oosthuizen his trip to Tucson was another event he finished with with the opportunity of playing another week. The 40-year-old is one swing away from surgery and a hiatus from golf for three months if lucky, but more likely five months.

Louis Oosthuizen is pictured at the 2023 LIV Golf Tucson event.

Louis Oosthuizen lost on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff to Danny Lee.

The problem is the left elbow, which has been an irritant for three years. While cortisone shots have dulled the pain, they also weaken the joints, making his elbow more vulnerable to injury.

The crescendo came in a playoff win over Bryson DeChambeau in the LIV Miami team championship last November when Oosthuizen felt something go wrong in his elbow.

Thinking it would heal over the extended offseason, Oosthuizen played little golf, but certain chores like picking up something from the floor with his left hand caused pain.

The elbow didn't bother him at all when he played in December at Leopard Creek on the Sunshine Tour, but before leaving for the first LIV Golf event in Mayakoba, Oosthuizen got an MRI and sent the results off to Dr. Keith Meister, the head team physician for the Texas Rangers.

The prognosis was a tendon tear, with just one thin piece of the tendon still attached.

“If you're telling me you don't have that much pain, take some anti-inflammatories, get the swelling down and then just see if you can play,” Meister told Oosthuizen on a video call in Mexico. “You shouldn't stop playing to get the surgery and then miss the whole season.”

After being assured he can’t hurt it more, Oosthuizen has chosen to wear a brace on his left elbow and play through the pain, if there is any, since it can come and go.

Last week, Oosthuizen didn't think he was going to play in Tucson, but managed well over the weekend with ice, anti-inflammatories and some physio and it turned out to be his best week in a while in regards to pain and also his finish.

“It's the weirdest thing like I don't really feel it in my swing, I feel it doing stupid little things, like picking something up at the wrong angle,” Oosthuizen said. “But the worst thing is once I start hitting a lot of golf balls, like I did last week, it gets quite inflamed. And then I can't take the club back. It's that gripping motion or the left hand. And that's sort of when it gets me, so I need to manage it. Like not do that much on the off weeks.”