South Africa’s sky-broom golf sensation, Southern Cape amateur Christo Lamprecht, showed on Thursday with a five-star performance in the first round of the British Open that he is made of the right stuff to reach the top of the sport.
The 22-year-old native of George, who won the British amateur championship at the end of last month, this time made his voice loud on the world’s biggest stage and with a score of 66 (-5) took the joint lead in the year’s last major golf tournament on the Royal Liverpool course in Hoylake.
The Georgia Tech student was one of the first players in the field of 156 entrants to tee off in ideal weather conditions in their quest for glory in the season’s final glitzy tournament.
Like a veteran, Lamprecht completed the first nine holes in six figures and three birdies to take the lead and never looked back.
Over the second nine, he was somewhat inconsistent with bogeys at the eleventh and sixteenth – after he failed both times with putts from around three meters – but birdies on the fourteenth, fifteenth and final holes ensured that his name was already at the top of the leaderboard by noon. Almost ten hours later when the last players completed their rounds, Lamprecht’s name was still at the top.
Lamprecht performed solidly all day, but his birdie at the eighteenth hole was impressive after he hit a fairway of more than 300 m and reached the green comfortably with his second shots. Two putts were enough to roll the ball into the can and the former student at Outeniqua High School left the course with a bitterly broad smile.
“I earned my place in the field with hours of hard work and am extremely proud that I was able to end the day as the leader. It may come as a surprise to many people, but I played really, really good golf.
“I believe in myself and if you step up to first base, you have to believe that you belong there and that you are the best,” Lamprecht said after his brilliant performance.
Playing alongside his great mentor and 2010 Open champion, Louis Oosthuizen, Lamprecht left the former major champion in his shadow with his superior play.
Oosthuizen finished the first round in 74 strokes (+3).
“I think it’s the first time I could beat Louis. I consider him my hero and it’s always fun to play with him. It puts me in a comfort zone,” said Lamprecht.
The lanky six foot eight Lamprecht shares first position with seasoned Englishman Tommy Fleetwood and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo. The trio is followed by American Brian Harman, Spain’s Adriano Otaegui and Frenchman Antoine Rozner, with six players, including US Open champion Wyndham Clark on 68 in joint seventh place.
Of all the big guns who were previously considered the big favorites to win the 151st Open tournament, the American Jordan Spieth performed the best with a score of 69 (-2).
Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele and the world’s no. 1 player Scottie Scheffler is all in at 70 (-1) firmly in the race with 54 holes left to play.
Last weekend’s winner of the Scottish Open, the Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, was not at his best and he was in trouble at +2 after twelve holes. However, two birdies over the last six holes for a score of 71 put McIlroy back in the race and the world’s second best player was happy afterwards that he was able to bounce back.
“There is still a lot of golf left to play and I am happy with my position. However, it will be important to switch to a higher gear in Friday’s second round and achieve a good score to get closer to the leaders,” McIlroy said after his round.
Last year’s champion, Aussie Cameron Smith, kicked off with a 72, with major champions Dustin Johnson (74) and Phil Mickelson (77) struggling and will be under pressure to survive the halfway mark cutoff.
Apart from Lamprecht and Oosthuizen, eight other SA players exhibited their talents on Thursday.
Of the eight, Thriston Lawrence (71) performed best, followed by Ockie Strydom (72), Branden Grace (73), Martin Rowher (73), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (73), Ernie Els (75), Kyle Barker (76) and Charl Schwartzel (77).
*Three amateurs have already written the Open title after their name. In 1930, the American Bobby Jones was the last one to do it.