It was not the Old Course, but it was near enough, as South AfricaÂs Louis Oosthuizen revived memories of his dazzling Open Championship victory 14 months ago by taking a share of the first round lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
At Kingsbarns, 20 minutes down the road from the setting for his greatest triumph in July 2010, Oosthuizen shot a six-under-par 66, along with AustriaÂs Markus Brier, SpainÂs Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Northern IrelandÂs Michael Hoey to lead by one from a group of six players which includes former US Open champion Graeme McDowell.
Queuing up a further shot back on 68 are some of the big names of golf, including world number two Lee Westwood, defending champion Martin Kaymer, Scottish hero Colin Montgomerie, three-time major championship winner Padraig Harrington and talented English youngster Tom Lewis, who made such an impact as an amateur in the Open Championship at Royal St. GeorgeÂs and is playing in only his second professional event.
The tournament, conceived as a celebration of links golf, is played over three of the worldÂs best known and respected links courses – the Old Course at St Andrews, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the highly regarded Kingsbarns Golf Links.
On a day made for good scoring with a hot sun, it was the positive golf of Oosthuizen which caught the eye. His 66 included seven birdies and just one bogey and he said that returning to St Andrews had given him inspiration. ÂThere’s nothing better than holding the Claret Jug at St. Andrews. Hopefully by the end of the week, it will just be a different trophy. It was so nice to come back and experience everything again.Â
He is playing with his brother Rikus in the Alfred Dunhill Links Team Championship and said: ÂIt was good fun playing a practice round at St Andrews yesterday with my brother. I showed him where som e of my shots ended up and things like that. It’s a nice, relaxing week and I’m glad that he’s here with me. This is a great event.Â
Hoey catapulted himself into a share of the lead with a prodigious drive onto the 18th green at the Old Course before holing a 40-foot putt for an eagle two. He said: ÂWe knew it was in range because it was downwind and I hit a great drive. I couldnÂt have got it any further. I was thinking just hit the putt with good pace and it came off perfect and tracked all the way.Â
His Northern Ireland compatriot McDowell, playing at Kingsbarns, had a disappointing bogey six at the 12th in his 67, but he was generally happy with his position and with his day. He said: ÂIt’s nice to be back. ItÂs good to catch up with some of the lads. I miss them when I’m out there in the States. I missed the camaraderie here on the European Tour. It was good playing alongside Simon Dyson today.Â
Lewis could have shared the lead in just his second professional event, but for an agonising double bogey seven on his last hole, the 10th, at Kingsbarns. Lewis, just 20, said he looked on it as a learning experience. ÂThe standard’s good. If I play well, like I showed for 17 holes, you can be right at the top of the leaderboard, but it shows that if you make a mistake, you can drop a lot. I’m disappointed in my finish, but four under is not going to leave me too far behind the leader. So hopefully I can shoot a good score tomorrow,Â he said.
Jaco van Zyl is chasing the leaders, following a five-under-par 67 at Kingsbarns. He said: ÂI shot 31 on the front nine, which was five under, and after that it was just a case of holding it together on the back nine. I managed to do that which is pleasing because the breeze was getting up and most of the holes coming in seemed to be playing into the breeze. Today there really werenÂt many scoring opportunities on the back nine and Kingsbarns has quite a lot of slopes on the greens, unlike the other two courses, so that also means you have to be careful there. But overall very pleased with my start and itÂs important to score well at Kingsbarns because it is traditionally the best-scoring of the three courses.Â
James Kingston and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel are just three shots off the lead with a three-under-par 69.