Oosthuizen fires nine-birdie 62 to lead South African Open

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - SPORT -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Louis Oosthuizen made a spec­tac­u­lar re­turn to the EPGA South African Open after an eight-year ab­sence by card­ing a nine-un­der-par 62 Thurs­day to take the first-round lead.

The 36-year-old South African is one shot ahead of Amer­i­can Kurt Ki­tayama, who won the Mau­ri­tius Open last Sun­day, and Zam­bian Madal­itso Muthiya, ranked 1,330 in the world.

South African Zan­der Lom­bard lies fourth after a 64 over one of two cour­ses be­ing used at the Rand­park Golf Club in a Jo­han­nes­burg sub­urb.

Oosthuizen, the 2010 Bri­tish Open win­ner and a run­ner-up in all four ma­jors, called his first round in swel­ter­ing con­di­tions over the shorter Bush­wil­low course “beau­ti­ful”.

“The greens were very good and re­cep­tive,” he said after a round spiced with nine birdies and con­tain­ing no dropped shots.

“I kept my foot on the gas the whole time be­cause there are so many good golfers in this field,” said the eight-time Euro­pean Tour win­ner.

“I need to play well be­cause it has been a long time since I had a win. My game is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion and I like where it is at the mo­ment.”

Oosthuizen last won in 2016, top­ping the Perth In­ter­na­tional leader­board in western Aus­tralia.

Ranked 36 in the world, the South African is the high­est­placed golfer in the 240-strong field and after three out­ward-nine birdies, he caught fire with six birdies on the back nine, star­ing with 10, 11 and 12. He cov­ered the sec­ond nine in 30 shots and set a scorch­ing pace that no one was able to match.

Ki­tayama fol­lowed up his tri­umph in Mau­ri­tius with four birdies on the front nine and an ea­gle three at 14 and two birdies for his 63.

He joined Muthiya, who first played golf as a six year old and has won one south­ern Africa Sun­shine Tour tour­na­ment since turn­ing pro­fes­sional in 2005.

A flaw­less round of 63 from the 35-year-old Zam­bian in­cluded six front-nine birdies.

English­man Matt Wal­lace, rated by many as a po­ten­tial win­ner after four Euro­pean Tour ti­tles since May 2017, launched his chal­lenge with a 65 that in­cluded eight birdies and two bo­geys.

He shares fifth with South African Ty­rone Fer­reira and Zim­bab­wean Mark Wil­liams.

Lo­cal favourite and vet­eran cam­paigner Ernie Els, whose 71 pro­fes­sional vic­to­ries in­clude four ma­jors, is among nine chal­lengers on 66.

Each com­peti­tor plays one round on the Bush­wil­low course and one on the longer, more chal­leng­ing Firethorn, which is also used for the fi­nal two rounds. - AFP

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