Oosthuizen maintains Masters pace

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Oosthuizen is moving along nicely
  • Post published:April 7, 2018

South Africa will have a keen interest in The Masters this weekend after Louis Oosthuizen matched his opening round 71 on Friday, writes WADE PRETORIUS.

Oosthuizen fired a second consecutive 71 albeit in entirely different circumstances.

The one-time Major winner kept his nerve while playing partner Jordan Spieth got off to a terrible start. The American saw his overnight lead vanish almost immediately after a double bogey, bogey start. That did little to deter Oosthuizen who was one under through three after a birdie at the 3rd backed up a pair of pars.

The 6th hole proved a tough hole to tame and Oosthuizen joined the club who surrendered a shot at the par three before making the turn one under courtesy of a three at the 9th. Oosthuizen safely navigated Amen Corner and moved to -2 and within two of the lead after a booming drive down the 13th led to a two-putt par.

Another birdie or par at worst seemed likely on the par-five 15th after the 35-year-old left himself with a chance of a pitch and putt for the birdie after being blocked out off the tee. His pitch was poorly constructed as he left himself wide right and long, no easy two-putt. And that proved to be true as he three-putted for his first drop in nine holes.

A big number loomed on the 16th after he left himself short sided off the tee but he recalled his years of experience and South Africa’s rich history of being fine bunker players as he flopped his ball out on to the fringe, which rolled gently towards tap in range.

The next two holes would sum up his day as he hit another booming drive down the 17th but failed to convert after leaving himself 20 foot for birdie. His card will read four at the last but after a miscued drive into the right tree line, he once again displayed a superb touch as he pitched to five foot and rolled home the putt.

Spieth’s wild day was far more subdued on the inward nine as he played solid golf, the polar opposite to his start. The 2015 champion birdied both of the back nine par fives with seven pars to follow for a round of 74. The difference of eight shots between his two rounds means he will be chasing on Saturday, which might ultimately suit him rather than having to play on the defensive.

Playing ahead of the Oosthuizen group, Rory McIlroy saw his birdie putt on the last stay on the high side and out for a 71 second round. Chasing the career grand slam, the Northern Irishman shrugged off his opening bogey with two consecutive birdies.

He would drop shots at both par threes going out and turned one over after failing to birdie the par-five 8th. The four-time Major winner made his share of putts but they were to save par before finally getting going with back-to-back birdies starting at the 13th, which was particularly impressive considering he flew the green for the second day in a row.

McIlroy failed to take advantage of his length off the tee and left the 15th with a par before his last chance to tie the lead stayed out on the last. The day wasn’t great but certainly wasn’t bad, as he kept himself in the late starters heading into the weekend.

Two behind McIlroy at -2 is Rickie Fowler, who finished level after a bogey, birdie, par sequence to finish. The world No 8 stunned the crowd early with a 66-foot par save on the 6th but struggled to capitalize on a number of good approaches on the back nine, lipping out for birdie on three occasions. Joining Fowler at -2 through 36 holes is Tony Finau after a birdie on the last helped him to a 74.

Unable to avoid disaster on Friday was Phil Mickelson, whose bid to become the oldest player to win The Masters ended after he played his final 10 holes seven over par after being within a shot of the lead earlier in the day.

South Africa’s Trevor Immelman, the 2008 champion, ended his participation in the 2018 edition after a 75 following his 78 from Thursday.

Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images