South African Louis Oosthuizen added a 63 to his first-round 65 to lead the WGC-HSBC Champions by five shots going into the weekend at Mission Hills on Friday.
The former British Open champion tied the tournament’s 18-hole record since it became a World Golf Championships event in 2009 with seven birdies and one eagle, before compatriot Ernie Els shot a 63 of his own to join Adam Scott (68) in a share for second.
Oosthuizen shot a bogey-free round over the Olazabal course in Dongguan on Thursday, and though he dropped his first shot of the tournament at the second hole today, that was the last one of the day. He has birdied every par 5 on the course except one – and that was the seventh today, which he eagled. He picked up further shots today on the par 3 fifth and eighth and the par 4 10th and 16th. His 128 is the lowest 36-hole score in WGC history.
“I started off a bit shaky with a bogey on the second hole, but immediately made birdie on 3,” he said. “But again I played the par 5s really well, I think I was six-under on them today. And you know, just the rest was putting really well. I gave myself a lot of opportunities for birdie, and hitting fairways, hitting greens, and if you make the putts, you shoot a low number.”
Els is nicely placed after a storming start – he birdied all of his first seven holes, except for No 4, and added another on the ninth to go out in 29. His back nine wasn’t as spectacular but he still picked up two more shots on 12 and 14.
“We are a big sporting nation, so you know, we are always going to be competitive starting a tournament,” added Oosthuizen. “But it’s a good rivalry, and you know, I think each of us wants the other guy to do really well. I see here Ernie is going along nicely, which is great. It’s always great seeing him play well, and it will be nice to see him up the leaderboard there.”
Els warned his countryman he wouldn’t have it all his own way over the weekend: “He’s playing great obviously and other guys are playing well. But there’s trouble out there, if you get a little wayward, you can pay the penalty. We’ve seen that.”
Ireland’s Shane Lowry (68) and the United States’ Jason Dufner (66) are in a tie for fourth on 10 under, while two-time winner Phil Mickelson (69) and Dustin Johnson (68) are one further behind.
“ Five shots [to make up] is a lot when you’ve got a guy like Louis out in front. He’s a player who can get hot and shoot a low score like he did today,” said Scott. “If he does that over the weekend, he’s going to make it really difficult for anyone to catch him. Also, on a course like this, five shots is just a couple of holes to get back. There are eagle chances and there’s also a lot of trouble, so it can all turn around quickly.”
Mickelson blotted a good round with double bogey on the last when he found a very awkward lie almost in the lake to the left of the green.
“I played a very good front nine, and a little sloppy on the back, but it’s okay,” he said. “I’m in position where a good round tomorrow will give me a good chance on Sunday.”
Prom Meesawat of Thailand is the leading Asian contender, seven under after adding a 70 to his opening 67, while local favourite Wu Ashun is one shot further back after also shooting 70.