Serene Oosthuizen sails into PGA Championship lead

May 22, 2021 | Featured, South Africans abroad

Louis Oosthuizen hit a three-iron in to the 18th at Kiawah Island in the second round of the PGA Championship on Thursday, and, while it was exactly the shot he needed, it led to his only bogey of the day. He still leads the tournament at the halfway stage.

The 2010 Open champion moved serenely around the course, not putting a foot wrong as he negotiated his way to five-under for his round through 17 holes for the outright lead. But his approach to 18 was fractionally strong, and he was unable to get up and down to stay in front, and, instead, he shares the lead with the surprisingly resurgent Phil Mickelson.

“I put that three-iron in this morning,” said Oosthuizen. “I probably haven’t had it in my bag for about a year and a half. I’ve been playing a seven-wood for a long time, and this wind is just too strong for a seven-wood. I’ve hit the three-iron a few times, and it used to be one of my favourite clubs. It was a perfect number with the wind on 18 to hit that, but I probably had a little bit more adrenaline and it pitched a little further and just went over that hump.”

It could hardly be called a blemish on a day which saw no fewer than 12 major champions miss the cut which fell at five-over-par. Of the 11 South Africans in the field, however, six made the cut, with Dylan Frittelli, Erik van Rooyen, George Coetzee, Charl Schwartzel and Brandon Stone missing out on the weekend’s action.

Indeed, Oosthuizen’s game showed every sign of being in major shape, as his trademark swing looked as perfect as ever, and his putting came to the party too. “I drove it as well as I can drive it, and ball-striking was pretty good with the irons,” he said. “With really windy conditions, you need that ball-striking to be on song. I think I hit 14 or 13 greens around this golf course, which in today’s conditions is pretty good.

“I’ve worked really hard on my putting especially and feel like that’s probably the best I’ve rolled it in a long time.”

Oosthuizen and Mickelson at five-under after 36 holes have a one-stroke edge over Brooks Koepka at the top of a leaderboard that is packed with six other major champions inside the top 20 in the form of Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Keegan Bradley.

Branden Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenhout also played themselves into contention. Grace’s one-under 71 came after he closed with a double-bogey on 17 and a bogey on 18 while he was four-under for the round and six-under for the tournament. “I knew I was playing well and was just kind of waiting for that one bad thing to happen,” said Grace. “I’ve worked hard mentally with my psychologist and was just kind of preparing for the worst. If it happens, just get on with it, and I’ve done that pretty well so far.”

Bezuidenhout’s round was less fraught, with an eagle, a birdie and a bogey on his card with 15 pars for his two-under 70 to join Grace in a share of fourth at three-under. “I had a better ball-striking day today than I had yesterday,” said Bezuidenhout. I” gave myself a lot more looks, and my putter is heating up nicely, so hopefully I can keep that going for the next couple of days.”

Just outside the top 20 is South Africa’s Daniel van Tonder in a share of 25th after his second-round of two-under 70 took him to one-over for the tournament as he made the cut in his major championship debut. He will feel increasingly at home at this level now as years of graft are starting to bear fruit.

Next best of the South Africans is Dean Burmester in a share of 50th at four-over after his 74. He shook off the effects of a triple-bogey seven on the third to make the cut. Garrick Higgo is the other South African who will be playing on the weekend. He sits at five-over after a second round of four-over 76.

But all eyes will be on Oosthuizen as he tries to pull off a second major championship that many feel has been too long in coming. “Look, it’ll be great to get a second major,” he said. There’s a lot of golf left, and I just feel whenever I get to a major, I sort of have my game where I want to have it, and mentally I feel very strong at a major week.

“I am definitely comfortable playing in majors now than before. Hitting it well and knowing your game is there, it makes it a little less stress, but you still need to hit the shots and play in the moment and play well.”

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