Nov 14, 2019: Louis Oosthuizen carded a stunning bogey free 63 to open up a commanding three shot lead after day one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player. India’s Shubhankar Sharma carded two-under-70 with shot five birdies and three bogeys in the opening round.
Shubhankar Sharma drove out in a fine style. He was four-under through his first nine holes before being upended by the course on the return stretch. The Indian began his first round at the 10th hole and was in a great spot at the bend. But bogeys at the first, fourth and seventh dented a promising card for Sharma.
Last week, Shubhankar started the week with a fighting 71, including five birdies, just as many as he shot today at Sun City. At 2-under after the first round, Shubhankar is lying in T17. Another top ten finish should help the Indian force his way into the DP Tour Championship in Dubai next week.
The South African has claimed five of his nine European Tour wins on home soil but has yet to lift the trophy at the event they call Africa’s Major – although he has three top tens in his last four appearances at Gary Player Country Club.
His victory earlier this season at the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg fulfilled a long held ambition to win his national championship and he now has the perfect platform to launch a challenge for a first Rolex Series win.
His nine under par effort was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he withdrew from Wednesday’s pro-am with kidney stones and was not sure he would be able to play at all just hours before his tee time.
Belgian Thomas Detry was Oosthuizen’s nearest challenger at six under, one ahead of Italy’s Guido Migliozzi and two clear of defending champion Lee Westwood, three time winner Ernie Els and home favourite Zander Lombard.
Oosthuizen had never gone bogey free before in 32 rounds at Gary Player Country Club but his round on day one saw him equal the biggest 18 hole lead of the 2019 Race to Dubai.
“Considering that at 3.00am this morning I didn’t think I was doing going to tee it up, I’m very chuffed with that round,” he said.
“I spent a bit of time in the hospital in Rustenburg and this morning was just a little niggly but I went up to the range, hit a few shots and it didn’t really bother me. It was more the walking fast that got it so I just slowed everything down and worked nicely.
“I love this golf course. One of my first wins on the Sunshine Tour was here in the Dimension Data and it’s one of those places where I feel like I can play really good.
“It was a good round of golf. I played pretty solid and just happy I didn’t make any bogeys which is always great around this golf course.”
Els got a rapturous reception as he went off in the first group of the day and he soon had the crowd cheering even more. A wonderful pitch brought a gain on the par five second and after an excellent par save from the sand on the third, a 20 foot putt on the fifth put him in a share of the lead.
Migliozzi took advantage of the second and then hit an excellent tee shot into the par three fourth to also sit at two under.
The Italian holed a similar putt to Els on the fifth, put an approach to six feet at the sixth and a stunning tee shot to 18 inches at the seventh then made it four in a row He parred the eighth but hit a wonderful approach after laying up at the ninth and he led by two at the turn.
Els took advantage of the tenth to edge closer to the lead but it was Oosthuizen making the big move.
He put an approach to five feet at the first, made the most of the second, spun an approach in tight at the fifth and holed from 18 feet at the sixth to turn in 32.
Migliozzi could not get up and down from sand on the 12th but bounced back from six feet on the next, before sandwiching another six foot birdie on the 16th with two bogeys.
That left the door open for Oosthuizen, who made the most of the tenth, holed a 15 footer on the next and put his tee shot to four feet on the 12th to lead by two.
An approach to four feet at the 14th had him three ahead and a monster putt on the 17th saw him lead by four before Detry closed the gap.
The 26-year-old started with three birdies and added further gains on the 14th and first before dropping his only shot of the day on the second. A birdie-birdie finish then moved him into solo second.
Els made a birdie on the 17th to get in clubhouse at four under alongside countryman Lombard, who made five birdies and a single bogey in his round.
Englishman Westwood carded a bogey free 68 to sit a shot ahead of ten players including 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood.
European Tour Release