He looked in every respect the kind of player who could win a major championship, and Louis Oosthuizen’s six-under-par opening round on Thursday in the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s at Sandwich, Kent underlined that fact.
The 2010 Open champion produced a flawless round with six birdies and no drops to take the first round lead by one over 2017 champion Jordan Spieth and American left-hander Brian Harman. He was two ahead of fellow South African Dylan Frittelli, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, 2009 Open champion Stewart Cink, American Webb Simpson and Benjamin Hebert of France.
“It was one of those rounds that you look back on and think that I hit a lot of perfect shots,” he said. “I hit them just the way I thought of hitting them. I just went out and enjoyed it. I was probably a little more aggressive than I might have been on some iron shots because I felt that comfortable. And I rolled the ball nicely with the putter. There’s a lot of golf left, but obviously I’m happy with the way I’ve started the tournament.
“I started out with seven pars, but then I made three birdies and all of a sudden, I’m on a really good score. You need to hit the fairways, first of all. If you’re hitting out of the rough here, you’re going to struggle.
“I’ve learned over the years playing major championships that patience is the key thing, and even if you make bogeys, you know that a lot of people are going to make bogeys. I was just very patient. I was trying to just hit my shots and didn’t really hit anything close enough to make birdies those first few holes, and then all of a sudden, I just made two good putts on eight and nine and got the ball rolling. It happened quickly, but you still need to put yourself in those positions, and I felt definitely the last 10, 11 holes I gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Frittelli, a late replacement for fellow South African qualifier Louis de Jager, who had to withdraw after testing positive for COVID-19, started his round slowly with five consecutive pars before dropping a shot on the sixth. He quickly regathered himself and made birdies on seven, eight, 11, 14 and 17 to set himself up nicely in a major he wasn’t expecting to play.
Justin Harding was the next best of the South Africans on three-under-par, followed by Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Jaco Ahlers and Daniel van Tonder on two-under. Erik van Rooyen was on one-under, Dean Burmester on level-par and JC Ritchie on one-over. Ernie Els, a two-time Open champion, Branden Grace and Shaun Norris were on two-over with work to do in the second round if they are to make the cut, and Garrick Higgo made only one birdie in his three-over.