JOHANNESBURG – Before shooting a scintillating opening round nine-under-par 62 at the South African Open yesterday, the last time Louis Oosthuizen played the Bushwillow course at Randpark Golf Club was some 18 years ago.
At that stage the course looked markedly different to what it looks like today, having undergone a redesign not too long ago, and it was also known by another name - Windsor.
It mattered little though, as the former Open champion needed only 62 strokes to post his scintillating score and lead by one stroke from Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya and last week’s winner in Mauritius, American Kurt Kitayama, after the first round.
In all, Oosthuizen had nine birdies in a blemish-free round after playing just one practice round on Wednesday on the course.
“I don’t remember much of the course, having last played it around 2000 or 2001,” said Oosthuizen prior to his first round, adding it would be crucial to make plenty of birdies early on.
After his round yesterday he said: “Of course I’m pleased. Anytime, anywhere if you go nine-under it will feel nice. It was one of those rounds where you didn’t have to look at the card, you could just play.
“I drove it well, gave myself opportunities to hit it close, and I putted nicely. Birdie after birdie just came.”
He made three on the front nine for 32 and continued on his back nine with birdies at 10, 11, 12, 14, 16 and 17 for 30.
“Hitting the driver down-wind you could get it close, sometimes within 70 yards of the hole.
“And if you’re putting nicely it’s a course you can score on,” said Oosthuizen, who added he was pleased he had negotiated the Bushwillow course so well and could now focus solely on the tougher Firethorn course.
All the players this week play a round each on the Bushwillow and Firethorn courses with the final two rounds played on the Firethorn layout only over the weekend for those who make the cut.
“There’s a long way to go. I’ve got the one course out of the way and can now focus on the main course. I prefer it that way... I can now get into a rhythm hopefully on one course only.”
Muthiya, ranked 1 330th in the world, also started his tournament on the Bushwillow course and, like Oosthuizen, without a bogey, his front nine 29 including six birdies.
Kitayama, playing on the trickier Firethorn course in the afternoon, tied the course record with an eight-under-par 63 that included an eagle-three on the par-five 14th.
“I played well last week and am now kind of just riding the momentum. I’m putting well and I now need to keep the confidence up. There are probably some scoring opportunities out there on Bushwillow (which he’ll play today), and I’m playing early, so I’m happy where I am right now.”
The one other player to go really low on the Firethorn layout was Zander Lombard, who after making a bogey five on his opening hole, registered eight birdies for a score of seven-under-par 64.
Three players were a further shot back and three off the lead. England’s Matt Wallace, Zimbabwe’s Mark Williams and South Africa’s Tyrone Ferreira all recorded scores of 65, six-under-par.@jacq_west