Richard Sterne and Dylan Frittelli led the way for the 15-strong South African contingent after round one at the Scottish Open at Gullane, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Sterne was off early and played his way onto the first page of the leaderboard with a five under par-65 that was punctuated with a bogey-free round that included two birdies to start the back nine and one more at the 14th before a string of pars helped solidify a good day’s work.
Like Sterne, late finisher Frittelli joined the group of eight ― that includes Masters champion Patrick Reed, English duo Matthew Southgate and Tyrrell Hatton, with an opening 65. The two-time European Tour winner, who will start at Carnoustie next week, got his day off to a solid start with birdies at 2nd and 3rd before getting to -3 with a gain at the 6th. Frittelli moved to -4 with a birdie straight after the turn and matched Sterne’s three-shot finish at the 14th for his final birdie of the round.
One shot ahead of Sterne and Frittelli was a group of five at -6 led by 2015 winner Rickie Fowler.
‘I love playing links golf and being able to use your imagination and hit different shots,’ said Fowler.
‘I feel like this golf course, you go around and you hit pretty much every club in your bag. You hit driver quite a bit. It’s just fun. Especially once the wind starts to blow a bit.’
Behind the leading South Africans is Justin Walters, who continues to show some impressive signs this year. Walters started with two birdies in a row before his round’s lone bogey at the 6th slowed down his charge. The experienced Saffa played his last six holes in -3 to get to -4 for the day and put himself in with a shout ahead of the second round.
Dean Burmester, Trevor Immelman and European Tour rookie Jacques Kruyswijk, the only South African player to eagle the second, were in the bunch at -2 with Darren Fichardt and Christiaan Bezuidenhout next best at -1.
The remaining seven Saffas have their work cut out if they want to hang around on the weekend after a day of low scoring at Gullane.
Louis Oosthuizen’s preparations for The Open took a turn for the worse after he was forced to withdraw with a neck injury.
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