The delightful swing of Louis Oosthuizen on display at the 8th today – photo David Cannon R&A via Getty Images
Even a late bogey in today’s second round of the Open Championship could not stop South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen extending his one-shot opening round lead at Royal St Georges and he heads into tomorrow’s third round two ahead over Collin Morikawa with Jordan Spieth another shot back and alone in third place.
All three have won major championships previously, Morikawa the latest, but for both Oosthuizen and Spieth they have the knowledge that they can win an Open Championship as they have done it before, Oosthuizen by a massive seven shots in 2010 and Spieth by three in 2017.
Not that the chances stop there of course as 24 players are within seven shots of Oosthuizen’s lead and it is a fair bet to assume that as they head for bed on Friday night each and every one of them might just be dreaming about holding the Claret Jug on Sunday evening.
Oosthuizen was superb, getting to 6 under for the day and 12 under for the tournament before the bogey at the 16th, but given his stunning stats in major championships it could be said that he is, on paper and on the golf course, the man the rest have to beat and not just because he leads at present.
Not only does the 38 year old own an Open Championship title but he has six other runner-up major championship finishes to his name along with one further third place finish. Whether that works for or against him over the final 36 holes remains to be seen but it is fair to say he has plenty of experience in contending at this level.
“They (the series of close misses) serve more as inspiration I would say, knowing that I can still compete in majors,” he said. “I just need to pull it through and see if I can go one better on this weekend. The game is good, but I know it is a really good leaderboard. I have to play good golf this weekend if I want to come out first.
Setting an Open Championship halfway scoring record added to the brilliance of his play.
“I only heard that when I walked in, so I wasn’t aware of what it even was before. Yeah, to have any record at the Open or part of any record at the Open is always very special. I think I’ve played really good the last two days.
“I probably played a bit better yesterday in the conditions we were playing in, but today we got really — I would say lucky sort of the last nine holes. It was as good a weather as you can get playing this golf course.”
“I mean, I made a horrible mistake on 16. I wasn’t ready to hit that shot. I wanted to sort of know one more thing in my head, and that happens. It was a mental mistake. I nearly made the putt but made bogey there.”
He was keen to downplay the significance of a lead knowing that the job is still only half done.
“You try not to think of it until you’ve done it. I remember looking back at 2010, and I know I had a big lead, but the first time I really thought about I can win this tournament was after my tee shot on 17. There was a lot of things that could go wrong at St Andrews coming in, especially the tee shot on 14 and 16 and 17.”
Cameron Smith and Ryan Fox lead the Australasians both players tied for 17th at 4 under and within that group mentioned earlier.
Smith began with a bogey at the and dropped another at the 3rd and ended his round with a bogey but in between came seven birdies and one other bogey in marked contrast to yesterday’s two birdies and one bogey.
“It was much the same I guess as yesterday, suggested Smith. “Bit of a rusty start. Couple bogeys there at the start. Just hung in there. That wind for me, every time I get that left wind I seem to miss the fairway or put myself out of position. Something I have to work on.
“But no, it was really solid. Lots of good iron shots today. Couple of close ones which was nice to see. Obviously, the putter was pretty decent as well.
“Yeah, absolutely. It was nice to see some putts going in and see some wedges and some of those irons go nice and close. I mean, yesterday it was just so brutal with the gusts of wind. I felt like it was almost like putt like whether you pick the right club or not. So nice to play in some nicer conditions.
“Aussies have had a pretty good run here so that’s nice. I haven’t watched the replays. Every time I spoke so Greg it’s been about golf but not this particular tournament, The Open Championship.
“Just more about how he went about his business on the golf course and pick his brain a little bit that way. But the technology I guess is so different from now to then. I mean, you can definitely see how he won around here being such a great driver of the golf ball.”
Fox added a second consecutive round of 68 and unlike Smith he started and finished his round well. He would birdie but did bogey the 2nd and then at the 5th got caught up in the rough and took double bogey. He finished his round in style however and birdied his final two holes for an inward nine of 32 and his 2 under par round.
“Played really good today,” said Fox. “Drove it the best I’ve driven it probably all year. Gave myself lots of chances and converted a few putts. I probably left a few out there, and only really hit one bad shot on the 5th hole, which got penalized pretty badly for that in the long stuff. Other than that, really happy with how I hit it and fought back after a pretty tough start.
“Definitely played easier. There was a lot less wind, and I think the wind sorted of died a little bit through the middle of our round. There was bit more breeze earlier — well, maybe it was just because a bit colder earlier it felt like there was more breeze.
“When we got to 9, 10 it became a really nice day. Just enough breeze to make it tricky, but nothing like yesterday. I thought maybe the setup of the golf course was tougher. Definitely a bit firmer out there. Some of the pins were tucked nicely today.”
Fox is receiving a lot of support from New Zealand. “I’ve just checked my phone. Probably take me an hour to replay all the messages I’ve had so far, which is nice. I think it was a pretty nice watching time for back home. I hope I had a couple shots make it on TV for everyone at home. Yeah, hopefully I can keep doing it and give them something else to cheer about over the weekend.”
Adam Scott was the only other Australasian to make the cut, the Queenslander tied for 40th place at 1 under.
Marc Leishman came closest of the remaining 10 Australasians but despite a round of 67 he would miss the weekend by one.