Two months after the bitter disappointment of losing a playoff for the Masters, South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen is hoping a recent dip in form will not derail his tilt at a second major title at this week's U.S. Open.
The 29-year-old has triumphed twice worldwide this season but has not been at his best in recent weeks, missing three cuts in his last four PGA Tour starts.
"I'm probably not where I want to be going into the U.S. Open but I feel like I am really close," Oosthuizen told Reuters on a sun-drenched afternoon at the Olympic Club on Monday.
"The season has been good, it's just the last month that I haven't really felt comfortable over the golf ball. I've worked on a few things and I feel a lot better now."
He launched his 2012 campaign with a successful title defense at the Africa Open, then rebounded from his Masters disappointment in April with victory at the Malaysian Open.
"Overall, I am very happy with the season," the South African world number 16 said. "I've just got to take it on from here and try to do the same that I did in Houston and Augusta."
Oosthuizen, who won his only major title with a commanding seven-stroke victory at the 2010 British Open, finished third at the Houston Open in April, a week before his playoff loss to American left-hander Bubba Watson at the Masters.
The compact South African, whose swing is widely regarded as one of the best in the game, thrilled the Masters galleries with a rare albatross at the par-five second in the final round to grab a two-shot lead.
However, he was eventually caught by a charging Watson, who went on to claim his maiden major title with a par at the first extra hole after conjuring a miraculous shot from pine straw that hooked 40 yards onto the green.
"I played well at Augusta and I'm not feeling like I threw it away or anything," Oosthuizen said. "I just got outplayed and I think that's the way you want to lose a major - if there is a way.
"You are always disappointed knowing you came that close but it makes next year at Augusta just a bit sweeter to go back and try to win it."
This week, Oosthuizen faces a challenging par-70 Lake Course at Olympic which will host the U.S. Open for a fifth time.
Though the hilly layout has no water hazards, no out-of-bounds and only one fairway bunker, on the par-four sixth, its first six holes constitute possibly the toughest start to any major championship.
"You'd probably rather have those six holes early out rather than looking up to them at the end of the round but there are a lot of tough holes there," Oosthuizen, who played all 18 holes in practice on Monday, said with a grin.
"There's not really any hole where you can stand on the tee knowing you can birdie it or feeling like you've got a very good chance you're going to birdie it.
"It's one of those stretches where you've just got to keep patient and know that everyone is going to make bogeys."
Simply "making pars" was the biggest challenge at Olympic, he said: "It's just a tough golf course. You need to hit the fairways off the tees and then the greens are really, really firm and really fast."
A unique aspect of the Lake Course is the number of dogleg fairways which slant in an opposite direction, but Oosthuizen preferred to focus on the upside to this quirk.
"It actually gets you to hit shapes," he said. "I like seeing shapes off the tee ... where you've got to hit a draw into a fairway that sits left-to-right."
The 112th U.S. Open starts on Thursday when Oosthuizen will tee off from the ninth hole in the company of Australian Jason Day and American Jason Dufner.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)