Oosthuizen comes in from the cold

Former Open champ Louis Oosthuizen shares the lead after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Former Open champ Louis Oosthuizen came in from the cold on Thursday to grab a share of the lead after the first round of the star-studded Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

With the final round of this three-course event set to take place at St Andrews, the scene of the young South African’s major triumph back in 2010, Oosthuizen has given himself a realistic chance of lifting yet another trophy at the Home of Golf come Sunday.

He would have had a chance to return to the scene of his Open victory last year for the staging of this event, but he tore the ligaments in his left ankle in a hunting accident shortly before and had to miss out.

Oosthuizen made amends for that today, as well as for depriving his brother Rikus of an opportunity to play in the pro-am last year, by going out and shooting a 66 at Kingsbarns to share the lead on six under alongside Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey and Austrian Markus Brier.

“I couldn’t watch this event last year on TV, I was too upset I wasn’t there,” Oosthuizen said after his round.

“It’s nice to come back and experience everything again. It was good fun playing a practice round at St Andrews yesterday with my brother. I showed him where a few of my shots ended up and things like that.

“I suffered the injury three weeks before the event last year and had no chance getting ready for it. It was a big shock for my brother because he was supposed to play, so I promised I would take him this year.

“There’s nothing better than holding the Claret Jug at St Andrews. Hopefully at the end of the week it’s just a different trophy.”

Kingsbarns seemed to be playing the easiest of the three courses, with a number of players shooting good scores there.

Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell lies only one shot off the lead after a 67 alongside five other players – four of whom also shot that score at Kingsbarnes: South African Jaco Van Zyl, England’s James Morrison, Scot James Byrne and Frenchman Gregory Havret.

The other player on five under, Scot Marc Warren, played at Carnoustie on Thursday.

McDowell had a brilliant year in 2010, the highlights of which included a US Open win at Pebble Beach and securing the winning point for Europe in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, but 2011 has been a struggle for him.

A recent decision to return to former coach Clive Tucker in an attempt to find his lost form appears to be paying dividends.

“At the US PGA Championship things came to a head,” McDowell said. “Myself and my caddie had to have a bit of a heart-to-heart as to what we were doing and what we needed to change.

“It was a bit of soul-searching and Clive was the answer, a guy that understands my game very well and was probably a lot to answer for why I played well in 2010.

“I’m not breaking my ties with Pete (Cowen), I still want him to coach me but I needed another opinion on things.

“I’ve got more clarity of thought with my game, which excites me. At one point in August I really wasn’t looking forward to a busy schedule at the end of the season.”

A further 11 players find themselves on four under, only two off the lead in what is a tightly packed leaderboard. Among them are pre-tournament favourite Lee Westwood, former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie, former USPGA champ Martin Kaymer, three-time major champ Padraig Harrington and recently turned professional Tom Lewis, fresh off a top-10 finish in his first tournamet as a pro at last week’s Austrian Open.

World No 1 Luke Donald opened with a three-under-par 69 at Kingsbarnes, and is three shots back, while Rory McIlroy played the same course and opened with a 70.