Johannesburg – Louis Oosthuizen has already won the oldest Open in golf. Now it’s time for the second oldest.
The 2010 Open champion made the perfect start to this year’s South African Open when he signed for a bogey-free nine-under-par 62 on the Bushwillow course on Thursday.
“That’s a nice welcome back to the South African Open,” he said with a broad smile after a round that put him one stroke clear of Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya and last week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open champion Kurt Kitayama.
Zander Lombard came home late in the afternoon with a 64 on Firethorn to make him the next best South African on seven under par.
England’s Matt Wallace, a three-time winner on the European Tour this year who played with Oosthuizen and admitted to learning a lot while watching how his partner took advantage of a good start, is chasing on six under.
And Ernie Els had arguably the biggest gallery following him as he made a positive start in his national Open with a 66 on Bushwillow. Branden Grace later joined him on five under.
But Oosthuizen, who on the eve of the first round Tweeted “Birdies, birdies, birdies needed this week” went out and did exactly that in a round where he admitted that his good form with the putter made it feel like “birdie after birdie”.
“Anytime, anywhere, nine-under is always going to feel nice. It was one of those rounds where you don’t really look at any scoreboard or your card, you just play,” he said.
“But there’s a long way to go. I’ve got one of the courses out of the way, so now I just focus on the main course for the week and it feels like a new tournament starting for me.”
Muthiya was another one of those who took advantage of a good day on the Bushwillow layout as he signed for a 63.
“I converted the chances I had. I struck the ball nicely. There wasn’t too much happening in terms of missing greens so that was a very good thing to have,” said Muthiya.
And Kitayama picked up from where he left off in Mauritius, opening with four birdies in his opening five holes on the Firethorn course.
“It was nice to continue that run from last week. I made a nice long putt on the first and got off to a really hot start. Scoring so low on the tougher course gives me a lot of confidence for Bushwillow,” said the American.
Jovan Rebula leads the battle for amateur glory and the Freddie Tait Cup for leading amateur finisher after opening with a round of four-under-par 67 on Bushwillow.