LOUIS Oosthuizen carded a stunning bogey-free round of 63 to lead the Nedbank the Golf Challenge – just hours after seeking hospital treatment for kidney stones that forced him to miss the pro-am on Wednesday.
Oosthuizen was not even sure he would be able to play at all just hours before his tee time at Sun City.
The 2010 Open Championship winner opened up a three-shot lead after shooting nine-under par in his first round, in the seventh Rolex Series event on the 2019 Race to Dubai.
Oosthuizen said: “Considering that at 3am this morning, I didn’t think I was doing going to tee it up, I’m very chuffed with that round.
“I woke yesterday with kidney stones and this morning was very uncomfortable.
“But it sort of eased at 6, 7am. You could see me walking slower and just going at everything a little slower out there.
“But I know I played good at the WGC-HSBC Champions two weeks ago and I know the swing is there – the putting’s there. I just need to be healthy to play.
“I just love this golf course. One of my first wins on the Sunshine Tour was here, the Dimension Data, and every time I play here, it brings back a lot of good memories.”
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”
Oosthuizen does have three top tens in his last four appearances at the Gary Player Country Club – South Africa’s most famous play is hosting the Nedbank again.
Oousthuizen’s victory earlier this season at Johannesburg’s South African Open 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.
Belgian Thomas Detry is Oosthuizen’s nearest challenger at six-under, one shot ahead of Italy’s Guido Migliozzi, who is in contention for the Rookie of the Year crown after recording two wins in his debut season.
Detry, who is still looking for a maiden solo win on the European Tour, said: “I had it going pretty quickly. I have got good vibes out here.
“I played pretty well here last year. Not quite as good as Louis today, but pretty happy,” said Detry, who won the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf with former University of Illinois team-mate Thomas Pieters, last year.
“I’ve been playing really, really well recently. You know, again last week, I was 11-under after two rounds and didn’t play quite as good on the weekend,” added Detry.
“But I’m very comfortable with my game, and if I can keep the putter hot for four days, then something might happen.”
Migliozzi, who won the Magical Kenya Open back in March, said: “I played solid tee-to-green and really happy about my game.
“It’s been a good round. I started very good, six-under par for the front nine,” said the Italian, who also won the Belgian Knockout in June.
“Rookie of the Year is something I would like to get. The competitors are really good, but let’s see what this week and the next one will bring, too.”
Defending champion Lee Westwood has never won a European Tour title back to back, although he has successfully defended three of his 43 titles won around the world – including the Nebank eight years ago when it was a limited field event.
Westwood, who is now 46, said: “You can’t win this tournament on the first day. Anything under 70 always feels like a great start to this tournament.
“I played well. Controlled the ball flight. Could have hit a few more fairways. Would have made it a little easier. I was in the rough too ofte –, but no bogeys and 68 was a great start.”
Three-time winner Ernie Els and another home favourite in Zander Lombard joined Westwood on four-under.
Meanwhile 2017 Race to Dubai winner Tommy Fleetwood and South African pair George Coetzee and Richard Sterne are among a group of 10 players at three-under.
•For live scoring from the Nedbank Golf Challenge City click here.