13th April 2019 | Sunshine Tour
Oosthuizen’s 66 vaults him to Augusta lead
It was his best round at Augusta National, and Louis Oosthuizen’s six-under-par 66 made him one of a five-man group in a share of the lead at the halfway mark of the Masters.
For the chasers one stroke back, that group should look pretty intimidating: Francesco Molinari, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott are the other members. Seven majors between those five players. But then again, Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson are just one stroke back, and there’s a small matter of 15 majors between them. Four green jackets for Tiger.
And also one stroke back, the absurdly talented Xander Schauffele. And Justin Harding. Don’t ever count Harding out.
For Oosthuizen, seven birdies would have given him as much heart as the solitary bogey irritated him. In the end, the 66 was two strokes better than the 68 he opened with in 2012 when Bubba Watson broke his heart with that play-off shot.
With memories of that no doubt still in his calculations, he knows as well as anyone what is coming. “I just need a decent, solid round tomorrow,” Oosthuizen said. “Not play yourself out of it and stay in touch with everyone. This golf course, you win it on the back nine on Sunday. We’ve seen over the years anything can happen on the back nine.”
Oosthuizen opened his round with a quick birdie on the first after sinking a 24-foot putt. He appeared frustrated after his second shot, but quickly smiled after seeing the ball drop in the hole. This set the pace for his round as Oosthuizen began to get hot with his putter.
The 2010 Open champion was tied for second with Billy Horschel in putts made over 20-feet with three. Oosthuizen nearly aced the 240-yard par-three fourth after landing the ball within a foot of the pin. He tapped in for birdie.
The 19th-ranked golfer in the world made four birdies on the front nine and carded a clean back nine with birdies on holes 12, 13 and 15.
Harding’s back nine came agonisingly close to being clean too, but for bogey in 10 caused by a fluffed bunker shot, and a woeful tee shot on 18. Even after that, he nearly saved par on 18, which would have vaulted him into a share of the lead.
Nonetheless, his performance keeps the commentators struggling to find anything accurate to say about him. (Samples: ‘He comes from West Somerset.’ ‘He wasn’t in Zambia this week to defend his title there.’)
And his approach to being on the stage at all is refreshing. “Look, it still gives me the giggles just being here,” said Harding. “I’ve got a couple of friends out here, family is out watching, as well. We’re just having a nice time and enjoying the birdies.”
If he makes four in a row on the back nine on Sunday, as he did in the second round, there will be some nervous giggles from a lot of the other contenders.