Oosthuizen shows why he can win the US Open

Jun 18, 2021 | Featured, South Africans abroad

He started his opening round with an irritating bogey on Thursday, but Louis Oosthuizen went on to justify his tag as one of the favourites for the 121st US Open Championship as he reached four-under-par through 16 holes as play was suspended due to darkness.

But for that dropped shot on the par-three 11th after he started his day on the 10th, it was flawless golf from the 2010 Open champion as he held a share of the lead in the incomplete first round at Torrey Pines in San Diego with the par-three eighth and the par-five ninth still to be played.

Oosthuizen shares top spot with American Russell Henley, who has completed his round, and he revealed just what it is that makes him a contender in just about every major championship in which he tees it up. “I just enjoy playing really tough golf courses,” he said. “I think somehow I focus a little bit better when I play those courses, knowing that the margin for error is really small. Especially around this place, you’ve got to drive it well, you’ve got to start it in the fairway, and you’re going to have trouble if you’re missing fairways around this golf course and I’ve really been driving it good lately.”

His focus has him a shot clear of Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello, both of whom have completed their rounds, and two ahead of two-time US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who has also finished round one. Koepka shares fifth place with one of the other favourites, local Xander Schauffele, as well as with Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and Spaniard Jon Rahm.

Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion, was the next-best of the nine South Africans in the field with his level-par opener of 71. He made four birdies and four bogeys to be in a share of 23rd together with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy.

Debutant Wilco Nienaber carded a creditable one-over for the first round, and he dominated the driving distance statistics once again. He averaged 340.1 yards off the tee to the field average of 304.33. He was also ahead of Bryson DeChambeau, who averaged 337.40.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who had a hole-out eagle on the 18th, was also on one-under, with Dylan Frittelli and Branden Grace on two-over. Erik van Rooyen was on three-over after finishing the first round, while Garrick Higgo battled his way to five-over-par 76. The final South African in the field, Thomas Aiken, endured a tough day with his nine-over 80.

For Oosthuizen, the start was important, but there is still work to be done: “I played nicely, putted nicely and hopefully I can just keep the momentum going,” he said.

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