Louis Oosthuizen leads a desultory SA charge at the US PGA Championship
Louis Oosthuizen is the highest-placed South African after the first round of the season’s final major‚ the US PGA Championship‚ being played at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.
The man from Albertinia Golf Club ground out a one-under-par 70 to leave him three shots off the lead held by Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oleson and America’s Kevin Kisner‚ who shot four-under 67s on a difficult day for scoring.
Rain prior to the tournament made the fairways receptive but organisers managed to keep the greens lightning fast‚ which undid many of the world’s leading players. The putting surfaces also became grainy‚ which upset some.
"The greens got very grainy as the day went on‚" four-time major winner Rory McIlroy told the media after his one-over round.
"If you just hit a putt a tiny bit off line‚ it exaggerated it. It was tough to hole putts this afternoon. Hopefully the surfaces are a little better tomorrow morning and we can hopefully hole some more putts."
Oosthuizen‚ whose form in the majors has been a disappointment this season‚ found something in his game to remain in contention on a day when some superb players were made to look ordinary.
Oosthuizen made three birdies and an eagle‚ which were offset by four bogeys. But unlike many he managed to keep big numbers off his card.
"It’s a relentless golf course‚ but I’m happy with a solid start‚" Oosthuizen said on social media.
Ernie Els‚ playing in his 100th major‚ endured a torrid round‚ signing for a nine-over 80. Phil Mickelson‚ also making his 100th appearance in a major‚ fared little better with a 79.
And the scoreboard was littered with catastrophe.
Masters champion Sergio Garcia finished with a 75‚ which in the context of his round was a good return after he struggled on the famed ‘Green Mile" section of the course.
Holes 16‚ 17 and 18 measure a combined 1,140m‚ and with the runaway speed on the greens‚ Garcia played those three holes in five over par.
Quail Hollow Club‚ which hosts a regular stop on the US Tour‚ comes in at nearly 7,000m and tends to favour long hitters.
But it wasn’t reaching greens that was a problem for the players. Putting on surfaces more like an ice rink was where demons lurked.
World No2 Jordan Spieth‚ chasing a career grand slam at the PGA Championship‚ carded a one-over 72 to remain in contention to become the youngest man to win all four majors.
Spieth turned 24 on July 27 and if he wins at Quail Hollow‚ he would surpass Tiger Woods as the youngest players to collect each of golf’s majors.
"Given it’s the first round‚ I know I’m still in it but I know that tomorrow’s round becomes that much more important to work my way and stay in it‚" Spieth said.
"I’ve got to make up ground. If I’m five back at the start of the day‚ I’ve got to be less than five back after Friday to really feel like I can play the way this golf course needs to be played and still be able to win.
"Some of these putts that I had for birdie are really one out of five maybe to make. On other greens you are looking at 50%. Out here‚ it’s just the way it is.
"The pins are on two-and-a-half to three-degree slopes. When you are pin high‚ it may look like — the crowd goes oh‚ but in our minds it’s really essentially a 20-footer with the expectation on the putts. They are difficult to make if you don’t leave it below the hole with not a lot of break."
SA’s Dylan Fritelli and Richard Sterne carded 73s‚ Charl Schwartzel came in with 74 and Branden Grace returned a 77.