Louis Oosthuizen leads South African Open, Kurt Kitayama lurking


Kurt Kitayama is on a roll. Four days after winning his first European Tour event, the former UNLV player is in contention in the $1.2 million South African Open.

The Chico, Calif., native is one shot behind 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen after returning an 8-under 63 around the Firethorn course at Randpark Golf Club in Johannesburg. He’s tied for second place with Zambia’s Madalitso Muthiya.

Kitayama, who earned his way onto the 2018-19 European Tour by taking the fourth card at last month’s Qualifying School, won last week’s Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open and has carried that form into South Africa’s national championship.

He had no bogeys, six birdies and an eagle to return the lowest score over the Firethorn layout.

“Last week in Mauritius was mentally very draining, trying to stay calm and hold that lead for the entire last round,” Kitayama said. “It definitely took a toll coming into this week. I felt tired during the pro-am and decided to play only nine holes on Wednesday because I just wanted to rest.

“The relaxed approach definitely helped. I played Firethorn in the pro-am so tomorrow when I play Bushwillow we’ll see if resting helped me. But I think that mentally just getting the rest is the most important thing.”

Oosthuizen is playing in his national championship for the first time since 2010, the year he won the Open Championship at St. Andrews. Despite eight European Tour wins, the 36-year-old has never won the South African Open.

“Anytime, anywhere, 9 under is always going to feel nice,” said Oosthuizen, who is looking for his first European Tour win since the 2016 ISPS Handa Perth International. “It was one of those rounds where you don’t really look at any scoreboard or your card, you just play.

“I drove it really well and gave myself good opportunities to hit it close and I’m putting nicely, so it was just birdie after birdie.

“There’s a long way to go. I’ve got one of the courses out of the way so now I just focus on the main course for the week.”

England’s Matt Wallace, a three-time winner this year, shares fifth on 6 under after a 65 over the Bushwillow layout.

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