Oosthuizen blows into contention in East London

Open champion Louis Oosthuizen showed his love of shot-making on Friday as he carded a six-under-par 67 to move to within a stroke of the lead at the halfway mark in the €1-million Africa Open.

He trails a group of three players who head the field at 10-under for the tournament – South African Branden Grace, England’s Miles Tunnicliff and Markus Brier of Austria top the leaderboard at the 6,104-metre (6,674-yard) par-73 East London Golf Club.

In the opening event of the 2011 Sunshine Tour, co-sanctioned by the European Tour, Oosthuizen looked in complete control in winds that gusted over 55 kilometres per hour at times.

“There was a lot of shot-making, which I like,” he said. “Like from 100 metres out, you take a seven-iron, or something g like that. I still think there were quite a few birdies out there today.”

He demonstrated that after opening with an eagle three on the 464-metre (507-yard) first by making five more birdies on a day when all around him were dropping shots.

His solitary bogey came on the 17th. “I just hit the wrong type of shot off the tee,” he said. “I didn’t have the greatest lie with the chip and I didn’t hit the greatest chip either. I hit a good putt but it didn’t go in.”

The three leaders ahead of Oosthuizen made nine bogeys between them – two for Grace, three for Brier and four for Tunnicliff.

And all of them professed to having a preference to playing in the wind.

“The two tournaments which I have won on the European Tour have been in really windy conditions, so it obviously suits me,” said Tunnicliff.

He carded a four-under 69 after a superb opening patch when he made five birdies in a row on the first five holes. “I wasn’t quite expecting that,” he said. “I hit some really good shots and rolled the ball in nicely.”

It came undone a little with two bogeys before the turn and two more on 15 and 16, but he waited out the storm and then chipped in on the 18th to put himself into a share of the lead.

Grace said he quite liked playing in the wind: “The wind is not the problem,” he said. “It’s just when it gusts that you struggle to get the balance and the stance right.”

But the man who was runner-up to 2009 champion Retief Goosen – who missed the cut after his second-round level-par 73 – is looking forward to the weekend. “I really came this week to do better than I did last year and maybe improve from the year before,” he said.

Joining Oosthuizen one shot off the pace were South Africa’s Jaco van Zyl and England’s Ross McGowan.

Van Zyl, the winner of four Sunshine Tour titles last year, carded a three-under 70, while McGowan fired a four-under 69.

It’s a mouth-watering leaderboard, and Oosthuizen is relishing the weekend action. “Hopefully the wind will keep blowing because I think it’s the way this golf course should be played,” he said.

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