Marc Warren opened his new campaign with a six-birdie salvo but, along with most others in the 240-strong field, was left trailing in Louis Oosthuizen’s wake in the first round of the South African Open in Johannesburg.
As Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, thrilled the home crowds at Randpark with a nine-under-par 62, Warren returned to action after a short break with a 68, which was matched by compatriot Duncan Stewart.
Like the leader, Warren and Stewart were both playing the less demanding Bushwillow Course, as was Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya as he carded a 63, the same score signed for on the neighbouring Firethorn Course by American Kurt Kiyama as he maintained the form that saw him win in Mauritius last weekend.
Oosthuizen carded nine birdies, including six in eight holes to come home in 30, as he made a blistering start on his first apparance in this event, which he’s yet to win, since 2010. “Any time, anywhere, nine under is always going to feel nice,” he said. “It was one of those rounds where you don’t really look at any scoreboard or your card, you just play.
“I drove it really well and gave myself good opportunities to hit it close and I’m putting nicely, so it was just birdie after birdie. There’s a long way to go. I’ve got one of the courses out of the way, so now I just focus on the main course for the week and it feels like a new tournament starting tomorrow for me.”
On a day when Matt Wallace, a three-time winner in 2018, and two-time Open champion Ernie Els also made promising starts with rounds of 65 and 66 respectively, Warren and Stewart fared best among a 10-strong Scottish contingent.
Warren, playing in his first event since finishing 19th in the Qualifying School final in Spain last month, birdied the third, fourth and eighth to be out in 32. He then started for home by dropping three shots in two holes but bounced back to repair that damage with birdies at the 12th, 15th and 17th. He sits joint-27th alongside Stewart, who got off to a flying start with an eagle before mixing three birdies and two bogeys in the next 17 holes.
Both tackling the Firethorn first, Ewen Ferguson and Bob MacIntyre signed for 69 and 70 respectively. Ferguson, who had four birdies, sits joint-46th while MacIntyre is just outside the top 60 after an effort that included an eagle at the 14th.
Grant Forrest, with a 72, was next best among the tartan army, followed closely by David Drysdale and Connor Syme with 73s. Scott Jamieson and Liam Johnston had to settle for 76s while Doug McGuigan is well down the field after a 78.
l Lanark-based Glenmuir has become a “principal partner” of the PGA, extending a connection that has been fostered over three decades. The deal includes clothing for next year’s PGA Cup defence in Texas and also staff uniforms for PGA pros at the Open Championship Swingzone.