Oosthuizen fades a little after stunning start
Ireland’s Peter Lawrie also on four under in South Korea
Ireland’s Peter Lawrie plays from a bunker during the first round of the Ballantine’s Championship at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon, South Korea. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen faltered after a fittingly flying start, but still found himself just one shot off the lead in the weather-delayed Ballantine’s Championship.
Oosthuizen made the journey from Florida to South Korea in a private jet laid on by the tournament sponsors and repaid their faith with six birdies in his first eight holes.
That took the world number seven into the outright lead and raised hopes of a first sub-60 round in European Tour history, but dropped shots on the 10th and 12th meant he was four under after 16 holes when fading light brought play to a close.
Half of the 156-strong field will return to Blackstone Golf Club at 7:30am local time on Friday to complete their rounds, with the clubhouse lead shared on five under by France’s Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Australia’s Kieran Pratt, Swede Johan Edfors, Korea’s Kim Gi-whan and England’s Matthew Baldwin, who had all completed rounds of 67 after a delay of two hours and 10 minutes due to rain and poor visibility.
Conditions had improved by the time Oosthuizen, the highest ranked player in the field, began his round in brilliant fashion, getting up and down from a greenside bunker on the par-five first and hitting his approach to the second to five feet.
The 30-year-old then holed from 15 and 20 feet on the next two holes to make it four birdies in succession, but had to scramble a par on the next after a badly hooked drive.
Normal service was resumed with birdies on the sixth and eighth, but hopes of a really low score — Oosthuizen once shot 57 on his home course at Mossel Bay — were ended by two dropped shots in quick succession after the turn.
“I got off to a great start and was hitting it really well early on,” Oosthuizen said. “But then on the back nine the wind came in and the weather got worse, and I miscued two shots and paid the price.
“But overall I haven’t hit it that well for a long time, so it was very encouraging. I was striking it very nicely on the range this morning and then managed to take it onto the course with me this afternoon. So I’m very happy.”
Joint leader Baldwin carded seven birdies and two bogeys in his 67, including losing a ball on the 17th and holing from long range to salvage a five.
“It was quite difficult to concentrate on such a long day so it was nice to be able to finish it off,” said Baldwin, who finished 72nd on the Race to Dubai in his rookie season last year and also qualified for the British and US Opens, making the cut in both.
“If you hit it in the right spot you can make birdies, but the weather was so up and down. One minute it was raining, next minute it was sunny and you’re taking all your clothes off and to finish you were back in the jumper again.”
Ireland’s Peter Lawrie was a shot off the lead after a 68 despite only arriving in Korea on Tuesday and not getting a practice round, while England’s David Howell was another stroke back on three under after equally disrupted preparation.
“I’ve had two days in bed and no practice round,” Howell said.
“I came down with something on the flight over. Obviously, it’s a course I know having played last year, but I’m delighted to have got out with three under par having just turned up.
“I was feeling pretty lousy for a couple of days. I don’t think I’ve ever played a tournament where I’ve just pitched up on the morning. That was the best way to recover some energy, although I was flagging towards the end.”
Lawrie had an up and down first nine holes, with four birdies and three bogeys after starting on the 10th. But birdies on the third, fifth and ninth saw the Dubliner sign for a 68.
Damien McGrane carded a one-under 71, while Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley was one over after a 73. Gareth Maybin recovered from three straight bogeys early on and will resume his first round on the 11th hole on two over.