• Saffas toil early at Shinnecock

    Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa l
    Oosthuizen is already five back

    Louis Oosthuizen is the leading South African in the clubhouse but after an opening 74 he has plenty of work to do at the US Open, writes WADE PRETORIUS.

    If ever there was a time to use a cliche, it’s now. Midway through a brutal first round at Shinnecock Hills, its clear that you cannot win a Major on a Thursday but you can certainly lose it.

    So who’s lost it? Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Charl Schwartzel. Schwartzel finished +9 on Thursday after hitting just seven of 18 greens in regulation, no surprise then that he made two triples during round one with ‘missed cut’ looming next to his name.

    McIlroy and Spieth played together in one of the ‘super groups’ with Phil Mickelson. It was nothing short of a horror show after the latter started with a bogey and triple bogey before signing off with a 78. McIlroy might have some more complaining to do about these groupings after ballooning to a 10 over par 80 which included three birdies.

    It’ll take a herculean effort from either of them if they want to be around this weekend.

    Oosthuizen is SA’s best after a 74 which leaves him five behind Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy. The Open winner hit 12 out of 14 fairways but things went sour from there as he went out in +3 after bogeys at 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th before hitting a solid approach into the 9th and made no mistake from eight feet.

    A birdie at 16th after another superb approach cancelled out his drop at 10th but he surrendered that gain immediately at 17th as he looked to mount a comeback reminiscent of his Chambers Bay effort in 2015. On that occasion, he opened with a 77 and came home with rounds of 66, 66 and 67. If he was to repeat those numbers from here on out, he’ll all but be the runaway leader as the greens firm up and the strong winds continue to blow around the demanding New York course.

    Branden Grace is two shots behind his countryman as doubles at his fifth and sixth holes quickly erased the positive vibes after his birdie to start. That birdie proved to be his only gain of Thursday as his hopes of a first Major appear severely jeopardized.

    The last Saffa into the clubhouse will also be left wondering what happened after Dylan Frittelli opened with a 78. The US Open debutant was plugging along well at +1 through nine but dropped seven shots in as many holes to torpedo down the leaderboard.

    The wind is expected to pick up for the afternoon starters with the greens firming up but the damage appears to be done for round one at least.

    Photo: Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa 

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