The Open’s first morning and a lot of attention was on Shane Lowry, the defending champion, and Jon Rahm, the pre-tournament favorite. Louis Oosthuizen almost snuck off the first tee in comparison. But as players shook hands on the 18th green nearly five hours later, the South African held the clubhouse lead after signing for a 64 under par, seven full strokes from his playing partners. and one of his closest opponents, Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman.
Oosthuizen’s only major victory came in the Open Championship in 2010, in which he demolished the rest of the field at St Andrews, winning by seven strokes, the biggest margin of victory at the Open since Tiger Woods in 2000. Since then it has become something. almost a man, finishing second in majors six times, including twice this year, at the US Open (behind Rahm) and the PGA Championship (behind Phil Mickelson).
Does this record disturb Oosthuizen? “It depends if you lost it or if someone else beat you,” he said. “I think that in both [the US Open and PGA Championship] I was beaten by better golf at the end there. You have to get over it quickly, otherwise it will prevent you from playing again. Once the week starts I need to get that out of my mind and focus on each hit. Oosthuizen did it here, negotiating a bogey-less lap that started with seven pars before a comeback of nine of 31 propelled him to the top of the standings.
If Oosthuizen started slowly, Lowry started off appallingly with two bogeys, twice finding the deepest rough off the tee. It would become a recurring theme for the Irishman. Rahm, who started 7-1 as a favorite despite losing his No.1 ranking to Dustin Johnson on Monday, didn’t fare much better.
“It’s so bad,” Rahm whispered after his tee shot on the third par-three. The Spaniard became as lively as his bright yellow cartoon-themed golf bag as his first nine carried, with sighs, shrugs and desperate glances skyward at every missed opportunity to birdie and by.
At 9, Rahm found himself in a small but steep bunker next to the tee, and after failing to get out of the sand on his first attempt, he was only able to return to the fairway before settling for a double bogey six. . Head down, he passed the halfway house in 37.
By the end of the round, Rahm’s despondency had turned to fury, twice screaming “fuck” at the galleries and dropping his club in frustration. After a vital birdie on the 18th, the 26-year-old’s round of 71 is flattering given his underwhelming performance.
Lowry, meanwhile, wavered between the ridiculous and the sublime. He has both the experience and the game to defend his title, but neglect has often left him wading through the tall grass. However, at 12, when he was pressed against the clients on a steep incline with the ball well below his feet and in a tricky lie, he sort of hit a corner a few feet away for his second birdie. If Will Zalatoris hadn’t made the hole for the eagle on the same hole earlier in the day, Lowry’s approach probably would have been pulled out of the day.
As it stands, the best thing you can say about Lowry and Rahm is that they haven’t quite had a fight, although there could still be a battle to make the cut on Friday.
In contrast, Oosthuizen was metronomic. There were no sensational par stops or remarkable birdies from the rough. In fact, the only time the South African found himself in the depths, at the 14th par-five, he simply darted down the fairway and hit his next steep approach a few yards from the hole before knocking for a birdie. take their share of leadership.
Oosthuizen hit almost 80% of his greens in regulation and rolled so well that he later said he would consider throwing the rest of his putters at home “in the river”.
Last month, the 38-year-old was preparing for retirement after purchasing an 86-acre ranch in Ocala, Fla., To add it to the 150-acre farm he owns in South Africa (where he mainly cultivates hay for his brother, who has a dairy farm next door).
He admitted prior to this tournament that he “thought that this time in my career I would probably be more eager to cultivate” and that “when the time comes and I feel like I can’t participate, I’ll hang up and enjoy. life “. In this screening, Oosthuizen may have to keep the clubs a bit longer, even if life on the farm seems tempting.
“I don’t have to play well or badly to be on the tractor,” he laughed after his flawless 64.