Sun City, South Africa: South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen defied pain from a kidney stone and shot a record-equalling nine-under-par 63 in the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.
Oosthuizen opened a three-shot lead over Belgium’s Thomas Detry with a flawless round, which included nine birdies.
Guido Migliozzi of Italy was lying third on 67, with three other players, including defending champion Lee Westwood and veteran Ernie Els, on 68.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, withdrew from the pro-am on Wednesday because of the kidney stone and spent time in hospital in Rustenburg, 50km from the Sun City resort.
“At 3 am this morning I didn’t think I was going to tee it up,” said Oosthuizen. “I was very uncomfortable but at 6, 7 o’clock it started getting better.”
Oosthuizen said that “it wasn’t that bad” while he was on the course, although he said he walked slowly between shots to minimise his discomfort.
“The swing is there, the putting is there, I’m just happy to play,” he said.
Detry started the tournament in 66th place on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai, outside the top 50 who will qualify for the Tour Championship in Dubai next week.
He had seven birdies in his round of 66, which was marred by a bogey six on the second hole, one of the easiest holes on the course.
The early pace was set by Migliozzi, who had six birdies, including four in a row, in a six-under first nine of 30.
But the 22-year-old, twice a winner in his first full season on the European Tour, stalled on the back nine after missing a short birdie putt on the par-five tenth, coming home in one-over 37, with two birdies spoiled by three dropped shots.
‘Never seen the course easier’
Tournament host Gary Player said conditions were perfect for good scoring early in the day.
“You’ll never see the course playing easier than today, with the greens really soft, not much rough and no wind to speak of,” said the nine-time major winner.
But the wind freshened as the later starters played their second nine.
Els, a three-time winner at Sun City when the tournament was a limited-field event, with his last win in 2002, drew a large gallery when he teed off in the first group of the day.
The Presidents Cup captain, playing on a tournament invitation alongside Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington, went bogey-free for his 68. Harrington shot 71.
Westwood, whose win in 2018 broke a four-year victory drought, also went bogey-free to again be in contention on a course on which, like Els, he has won three titles.
The two veterans were joined on 68 by South African Zander Lombard, who needs a high finish to qualify for Dubai after starting the tournament in 76th place in the tour rankings.
Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger overcame a slow start to shoot one-under-par 71. — AFP