Quartet share the lead in Scotland

9/29/2011 5:49:06 PM
Louis Oosthuizen  (Getty Images)
Louis Oosthuizen (Getty Images)
Four players were tied for the lead after the opening round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

Former Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, Austrian Markus Brier, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello and Northern Irishman Michael Hoey were all six under par.

And South African Oosthuizen has set his sights on lifting another trophy at St Andrews on Sunday night.

Oosthuizen won his first Major title at The Home of Golf in 2010, but was prevented from returning to the scene of his greatest triumph a few months later after tearing the ligaments in his left ankle in a hunting accident.

That also meant his brother Rikus missed out on the chance to play in the pro-am event staged at Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and St Andrews, but Oosthuizen made amends with an opening 66, six under par, at Kingsbarns.

"I couldn't watch this event last year on TV, I was too upset I wasn't there," Oosthuizen said.

"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."

Most of the best scores came at Kingsbarns, with Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell shooting a 67 there to be one of six players a shot off the pace on five under.

McDowell enjoyed a brilliant season in 2010, winning the US Open Championship at Pebble Beach and then securing the winning point in The Ryder Cup at The Celtic Manor Resort, but has struggled to reproduce that form since.

And the 32 year old revealed that he had turned to former coach Clive Tucker in an attempt to rediscover his best golf.

"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."

Brier was the first Austrian to win on The European Tour, but lost his full card after finishing outside the top 115 last season and faces a similar struggle this year – he is currently 109th.

A big finish this week would take care of his exemption status for next year though, which made his display all the more satisfying.

“I'm still looking to make enough money to make my card,” he said. “It's the last big week for me, so if I can make everything work here, it's nice - it makes the rest of the season easier.”

The highlight of Hoey’s day came with an eagle at the par five 18th.

“We knew it was kind of in range because it was downwind and I hit a great drive,” he said. “I couldn't have gotten any further than just off the front and I was thinking, just a good pace.  But as soon as I hit it, it came off perfect, and tracked it all the way - it's a bonus.”

Cabrera Bello won the Austrian GolfOpen two years ago with a blistering final round 60, but has not had a top ten finish since April.

“I had a great start on the front nine, and the eagle at the third (a seven iron to six feet) really set me up,” he said. “But then to follow that with four birdies in seven holes meant I knew I was in for a decent score and on the back nine I felt under a bit of pressure because I didn’t want to spoil a good round.”

On a crowded leaderboard, Ireland's Padraig Harrington, defending champion Martin Kaymer, World Number Two Lee Westwood and former Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie were all just two off the lead after rounds of 68.

England's Tom Lewis also returned the same score, but would have been sharing the lead if not for a double bogey seven on the ninth at Kingsbarns, his closing hole.

Lewis shot to fame at The Open Championship at Royal St George's this summer, shooting a 65 - the lowest round by an amateur in championship history - on the opening day.

He then helped Great Britain & Ireland win the Walker Cup earlier this month in Aberdeen before turning professional, finishing joint tenth on his debut in the paid ranks in Austria last week.

The 20 year old has six more events this season to earn around €220,000 to secure full playing rights in 2012, but knows it is certainly possible after US Open Champion Rory McIlroy finished third here in 2007 to do just that.

"Rory got his card in three starts and hopefully I can do as well as that," Lewis said. "I'm disappointed in my finish but four under is not going to leave me too far behind.

"I've seen it (events like this) on TV and this is where I want to be. It's great that I'm here but it's disappointing that I'm not top of the leaderboard. It's going to leave a bad memory."

World Number One Luke Donald, aiming to become the first player to finish top of the money list on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season, was satisfied with a round of 69, while McIlroy - who is over €1,600,000 behind his Ryder Cup team-mate at the top of The Race to Dubai - came home in 31 for a 70.