Weekend Herald

Fox prowling after solid rounds as Oosthuizen grabs early Open lead

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Kiwi Ryan Fox made a good start at the Open Championsh­ip with two rounds of 68 at the year’s fourth major.

Fox shot a two-under 68 in his first round at the Royal St George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, England, a scorecard that included four birdies and two bogeys, to sit in a share of 19th.

It left Fox four shots behind the day’s leader, South African Louis Oosthuizen, who held a one-shot advantage over American pair Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman.

Fox replicated that with another

68 in his second round last night, which saw him step off the course in a tie for sixth.

The 34-year-old started slowly but finished strongly to regain lost ground. After beginning with a birdie, Fox bogeyed the second and doubleboge­yed the fifth to drop to even par. But birdies on the ninth, 12th, 17th and

18th saw him finish on four-under. Hitting half his fairways, Fox was particular­ly strong in his approach play, reaching the greens in regulation on 15 holes.

Fellow Kiwi Daniel Hillier notched a two-over 72 in his first round to be tied for 91st and was even par after 12 holes of his second round last night, one shot off the projected cut.

Fox said he was happy with his “really solid” first round in tricky conditions.

“It’s a pretty tough golf course and the conditions were really tough. I made probably one silly mistake — I made a bogey on 14 on the par five laying up and made a bit of a pull on the wedge shot and didn’t get it up and down — but the rest of the game was really solid.

“I didn’t hit a lot of fairways but ironically I drove it really well. It’s one of those courses where you can hit a good shot and it gets a bit of a funny bounce and just jumps off the fairway, and I had a bit of that.

“Everything was really solid. I putted nicely. I didn’t have to chip the ball too much, and when I did, I chipped it nicely as well. All in all, just a pretty solid day in tricky conditions.”

Cheered on by the biggest golf crowd since the Covid-19 outbreak, Oosthuizen saved par from a fairway bunker on the final hole for a sixunder 64 to take the early lead.

Spieth was only one stroke back by making putts like it was 2017 all over again.

“It feels inside the ropes, from the first tee forward, the most normal of any tournament we’ve played thus far relative to that same tournament in previous years, pre-Covid,” said Spieth, whose run of four straight birdies in his round of 65 reminded him of his play at Royal Birkdale when he lifted the claret jug four years ago.

Oosthuizen is coming off two straight runner-up finishes at majors — the PGA Championsh­ip and US Open — and is contending again after tying the lowest opening round at Royal St George’s since Christy O’Connor Jr had a 64 in 1981.

That didn’t look as though it would be the case after the South African opened with seven straight pars. He followed with six birdies in his next nine holes.

“I’ve learned over the years playing major championsh­ips that patience is the key,” said Oosthuizen, who hasn’t won one since the British Open at St Andrews in 2010. There have been six runner-up finishes in the majors since.

Patience already might be wearing thin for US Open champion Jon Rahm, who slapped his thigh in frustratio­n after making a double bogey at No 9 after taking two shots to get out of a pot bunker in the fairway. He shot 71.

Bryson DeChambeau had the same score after spending much of his first round up to his knees in deep grass and unable to use his power to overwhelm Royal St George’s.

Shane Lowry, the defending champion from 2019, also shot 71 in front of a crowd that has a daily capacity of

32,000 this week.

There was plenty of good scoring on a course where soft fairways and greens — because of recent rain — negated the impact of its storied undulation­s.

By halfway through the first round,

14 players had shot 67 or better. They included Justin Rose and three more of his countrymen looking to become the first English winner of golf’s oldest championsh­ip since Nick Faldo in 1992.

Harman was tied for second with Spieth after making five birdies in his first eight holes and finishing with another for 65.

Stewart Cink, the 2009 champion at Turnberry, was in a three-way tie for fourth with Dylan Frittelli and MacKenzie Hughes after 66s.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson hit 14 greens in regulation in his round of 68 that had him in a tie for 15th.

Spieth had not won since Birkdale until he ended his slump at the Texas Open in April.

 ?? Photo / Getty Images ?? Ryan Fox shot 68 in both his first two rounds at the Open Championsh­ips.
Photo / Getty Images Ryan Fox shot 68 in both his first two rounds at the Open Championsh­ips.

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