By Michael Sherman
JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout fired an impressive opening two-under par 70 in the first round of the Masters, at Augusta, on Thursday.
For much of the round Bezuidenhout was one behind the lead of three-under held by American Brian Harman and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama who carded 69s. Late in the day, England’s Justin Rose carded a superb seven-under 65 to open a four-shot lead.
The 26-year-old Bezuidenhout’s total was good enough for a share of fourth, and leaves the SA player perfectly placed. In fact, when last year’s edition of The Masters was held in November Bezuidenhout opened with a seven-under 65 to share the lead. He would go on to end in a share of 38th.
In his second Masters and playing in his fifth major overall, Bezuidenhout did not give much away when asked about his expectations.
“Nothing much really. I've always been a guy that just plays too my strengths. My short game's pretty good. I always rely on my short game. I'm a good putter,” said Bezuidenout.
“So overall, I've been playing well over the last couple of months, but I've been struggling to put four rounds together. So hopefully, I can turn that around this week and put four decent rounds together and then see where I finish off.”
Our South African Leaderboard after round one at Augusta National Golf Course @TheMasters ⛳️🏆![CDATA]>🇿![CDATA]>🇦@Dylan_Frittelli @CA_Schwartzel @CbezGolf @Louis57TM #GreatnessBeginsHere #SunshineTour #Masters #DylanFrittelli #CharlSchwartzel #ChristiaanBezuidenhout #LouisOosthuizen pic.twitter.com/DWNJBjTPq1— Sunshine Tour (@Sunshine_Tour) April 9, 2021
In conditions which were incredibly difficult for scoring, Bezuidenhout carded three birdies on the front nine and dropped a shot coming home for a tidy first round. As he explained, the greens were hard and firm and getting shots to hold on the putting surfaces proved tricky.
“November played soft. It played long. Like now there's some place where you can't even hold a green with a seven-iron in your hand, where November you're going for flags with a four-iron in your hand.
“It's a completely different golf course. Different course management. I mean, you have to give those holes respect and just take a ball on the holes and go. When you are in position for the birdies, then you can make birdies. Overall, just balls are not going to hit.”
The next best of the SA players was 2011 Masters champions Charl Schwartzel with a two-over 74 in a tie for 30th. Dylan Frittelli and Louis Oosthuizen both signed for rounds of four-over 76 in a share of 60th. - African News Agency (ANA), Editing by Michael Sherman