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Oosthuizen latest Greenbrier Classic commitment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Greenbrier Classic added another former major winner to its field Wednesday with the commitment of 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen.

Later Wednesday night, the Classic's Twitter site announced the addition of 2011 FedExCup winner Bill Haas.

"It's fantastic," said Greenbrier Classic tournament director Monte Ortel. "It's something that we've been pushing for. We've been talking to [Oosthuizen] and have made several phone calls, making sure it fits his schedule and his family's schedule. It goes back to our whole philosophy of being a family-friendly event, the family vacationing while the dad works. That's something that we've been pushing."

A native of Mossel Bay, South Africa, Oosthuizen splits time between the PGA and European PGA tours. He most recently competed in the U.S. Open at Merion, Pa., but withdrew prior to the start of the second round after straining a hip flexor during the opening round in which he fired a 5-over-par 75.

Ortel said the 30-year-old Oosthuizen has been cleared to return to the course and is eager to fine-tune his game in preparation for the British Open Championship July 14-21 at Muirfield.

"[The commitment] also plays into the fact that he wants to get ready for the Open Championship in a couple weeks," said Ortel. "With the course we have, it's a great way to prepare for that."

Oosthuizen sits 10th in the World Golf Ranking and 141st in the PGA Tour's FedExCup standings. The victory at the British remains his only PGA Tour win, but he does have a pair of second-place finishes and 22 top-25s in 61 career starts. His best showing this year was a 10th at the Shell Houston Open in March. He has played only nine PGA Tour events in 2013.

Oosthuizen has enjoyed more success across the pond, where he is ranked 16th on the European Tour and owns one victory this year, at the Volvo Golf Champions in January. He owns six career European Tour wins and has made the cut in 147 of 216 career starts.

Other than his 2010 British Open victory, Oosthuizen's best finish in a major was as runner-up in the 2012 Masters after losing a sudden-death playoff to Bubba Watson.

The arrival of Oosthuizen is a surprising one considering many of the top European Tour players have long opted to remain close to home and prepare for the British by playing in next week's Irish Open. Ortel is hopeful Oosthuizen could be the first of many top Euros to descend upon White Sulphur Springs.

"That's a goal we set back in 2010, creating and building an event that appeals not only to the top-tier PGA Tour players but is also attractive to the top European players," Ortel said. "This is another step in that direction. We've talked to all of them and we hope eventually we'll get to that point [when they come]. We've always said we just have to get them here."

Oosthuizen is the latest in a long string of high-profile commitments to the fourth-annual Classic, following those from Watson, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson, among others. All told, the Classic has filled 151 slots in the 156-player field, a group that includes 11 of the top 50 players in the world. And with the final deadline for entries still more than a day away at 5 p.m. Friday, Ortel isn't ruling out another surprise or two.

Later Wednesday, that included Haas, who lost to Scott Stallings in a three-way playoff at the 2011 Greenbrier Classic. Later that year, Haas won the Tour Championship and the FedExCup with a memorable up-and-down out of a greenside water hazard.

This season, Haas won the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in the Los Angeles area. He has risen to 29th in the world and 26th in the current point standings.

"The work doesn't stop," he said. "I'm on the phone a lot and trying to get those verbals to turn into official commits. That's one of the big challenges, getting those guys off the fence and to commit. We do have some others that we'll be releasing soon.

"This field is the strongest we've had, from top to bottom. The field has gotten stronger every year and that's the goal."

Reach Jeff Rider at 304-348-5122 or jrider@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/gazette_gamer. Doug Smock contributed to this report.


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