Louis Oosthuizen marked his return to the South African Open in fine style as he stormed to the top of the leaderboard at Randpark Golf Club.
The 2010 Open champion is appearing in the national championship for the first time in eight years, and made an immediate impact on Thursday.
Oosthuizen’s 62 on the Bushwillow course was enough for a three-shot lead over his main rival and playing partner Matt Wallace. The Englishman would be somewhat surprised to be trailing by such a margin, but that is testament to the leader’s fine opening salvo.
Defending champion Chris Paisley completed the group, but could only finish one under par.
A fairly innocuous front nine from the trio – due to the morning starters ensuring good scoring – was followed by a sublime inward run which saw Oosthuizen, buoyed by some excellent work with his driver, start with three birdies in a row, and he would go on to make six birdies in total to move comfortably clear of the field.
‘Any time, anywhere, nine under is always going to feel nice,’ said Oosthuizen.
‘It was one of those rounds where you don’t really look at any scoreboard or your card, you just play.
‘I drove it really well and gave myself good opportunities to hit it close and I’m putting nicely, so it was just birdie after birdie.
‘There’s a long way to go. I’ve got one of the courses out of the way so now I just focus on the main course for the week and it feels like a new tournament starting tomorrow for me.’
Runner-up at Glendower in January Branden Grace and tournament host Ernie Els formed part of the pack at five under.
At the top of the pile, Oosthuizen finished one shot clear of last week’s winner in Mauritius Kurt Kitayama – who played the Firethorn Course – and Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya.
The American’s 63 was the lowest round of the day on the Firethorn and left him in a commanding position heading into round two.
South African Zander Lombard also played the longer course and he was seven under, a shot clear of countryman Tyrone Ferreira, England’s Matt Wallace and Zimbabwean Mark Williams.
Earlier, Erik van Rooyen was forced to withdraw shortly before his tee time. The Joburg Open runner-up is battling a sinus infection and withdrew in a bid to make sure he can compete in full health at next week’s Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.