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6th December 2018 | Sunshine Tour

Oosthuizen’s birdie blitz takes SA Open lead

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He said he had his doubts about how many birdies could be made on the Bushwillow course at Randpark Golf Club, but after nine of them in his opening round of the South African Open Championship hosted by City of Joburg, Louis Oosthuizen doubted no more.

The 2010 Open champion fired a bogey-free opening nine-under-par 63 to lead the tournament played over Bushwillow and Firethorn courses for the first two rounds ahead of the weekend which will see action exclusively on Firethorn by one stroke over Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya and Kurt Kitiyama of the United States.

“I was remembering that I said yesterday I wondered how there was a 61 on Bushwillow last year,” laughed Oosthuizen. “It was a strange round. There were a lot of holes that with a driver downwind, you can really get it close to the greens. There were quite a few holes where you had less than 70 yards in the whole time. If you feel like you’re putting nicely, you can definitely score there.”

Oosthuizen spent his round in the company of Matt Wallace, the English world number 44 who is back in action after his share of fifth in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and of second in the DP World Tour Championship. He carded a six-under 65. And the top-ranked pair in the field put on quite a show for the fans.

“Matt and I at one stage – I made a putt and then he made a putt and we were neck and neck the whole time up until 13 where he made bogey,” said Oosthuizen. It’s nice when two of the guys in the group play well. I played with Matt at Sun City in the Nedbank, actually. He’s a great player. He’s had an unbelievable season and he’s going to win many many more.”

Wallace also enjoyed himself. “It was fun playing with Louis,” he said. “Near the end there, he was outside me, and I was inside, and he holes them and I was like, this is like match play now, I need to make this. I missed one on 16 and then made one on 17. I was pretty happy with that. I’ll take the positives from today and go again tomorrow.”

Muthiya managed to put the disappointment of missing the cut in last week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open behind him with an opening 29 on Bushwillow in a flawless display. “I did get the feeling a good performance was looming,” he said. “I played exceptionally well in Mauritius and missed the cut by one. I looked at that and learnt from those errors and just build on the positive things I did last week.”

Kitiyama, on the other hand, was the champion in Mauritius, and had to deal with that experience in a different way. “Last week in Mauritius was mentally very draining, trying to stay calm and hold that lead for the entire last round,” he said. “It definitely took a toll coming into this week. I decided to play only nine holes on Wednesday because I just wanted to rest up. Tomorrow when I play Bushwillow we’ll see if resting helped me.”

Zander Lombard pulled off the second-best round of the day on Firethorn behind Kitiyama with his seven-under-par 64 which included a bogey on his first hole, and the South African found himself in fourth.

Back on five-under, but very handily placed, were Ernie Els and Branden Grace together with fellow South Africans Davis McIntyre, Jake Roos and Jbe’ Kruger, as well as Brazil’s Adilson Da Silva and three other players.

Oosthuizen feels he has an important bit of the tournament behind him now. “I’m pleased to be in the lead by three, but there’s a long way to go,” he said. “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 tomorrow for me.”

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