Peter Oosterhuis was the ‘Colin Montgomerie’ or ‘Lee Westwood’ of his day. He won the Harry Vardon Trophy – awarded to the winner of the ‘Order of Merit’ and, more recently, to the winner of the ‘Race to Dubai’ on the European Tour – four years running between 1971 and 1974, but never won a major championship.
Despite his Dutch surname, Oosterhuis was born in London in 1948. He turned professional in 1968 and initially competed on the European circuit, the forerunner of the European Tour – which was officially created in 1972 – before playing on the PGA Tour from 1975 onwards. Stateside, Oosterhuis won just once, withstanding late challenges from Jack Nicklaus, Andy North and Bruce Lietzke to win the 1981 Canadian Open by a single stroke. Congratulating him on his maiden victory, Nicklaus said, ‘You’ve been very patient, Peter, and now you’ve won one.’
As far as major championships were concerned, Oosterhuis played 44, made 34 cuts and finished in the top ten eight times, but never won one. At Augusta in 1973, he shot 73-70-68 in the first three rounds to lead the Masters Tournament by three strokes after 54 holes, but 74 in the rain-delayed final round to finish tied third behind Tommy Aaron. The following year, he finished runner-up to Gary Player in the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, albeit by a respectful four strokes.
Fast forward eight years to the 1982 Open Championship at Royal Troon and Oosterhuis came as close as he ever did to victory in a Major. Tied sixth, four strokes off the lead, after 54 holes, he shot a two-under-par 70 in the final round, which was good enough for tied second, a single stroke behind Tom Watson, who was winning his fourth Open Championship.