If you woke up early Thursday morning to watch the TV broadcast of the British Open first round expecting to see the biggest stars in the game dominate, you may as well have rolled over and gone back to sleep.
Day 1 at Royal St. George’s was not a good one for the best golfers in the world.
Make no mistake: There’s some big-time talent at the top of the leaderboard with Louis Oosthuizen (6-under-par 64) entering Friday’s second round with a one-shot lead over Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman (5-under 65s).
Jon Rahm, reigning U.S. Open champion and the unanimous betting favorite and hottest player on the planet? He shot a nondescript 1-over-par 71.
Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 ranked player in the world? He posted a respectable 2-under 68.
Rory McIlroy? He made a late rally to get to even par.
Big, bad Bryson DeChambeau? He shot 1-over 71 and then got into an explosive public spat with his equipment company.
Brooks Koepka, instigator of DeChambeau and major championship big-game hunter? He shot a 1-under 69.
Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed shot 72. Adam Scott shot 73, with fellow Aussies Jason Day and Marc Leishman posting 5-over 75s.
Phil Mickelson, the reigning PGA Championship winner, shot a stunning 10-over 80 and stands tied for last in the 156-player field.
The star of Day 1 was Oosthuizen. Things in life you can count on: Death, taxes and Oosthuizen contending at a major championship.
When you consider how syrup-sweet and buttery-smooth the 38-year-old South African’s swing is and the fact he’s finished runner-up six times in major championships, including the past two this year, it’s remarkable Oosthuizen doesn’t have several more wins in majors than the one he has.
“Probably, in my mind, the perfect round I could have played,’’ Oosthuizen said. “I didn’t make many mistakes. When I had good opportunities for birdie, I made the putts.’’
Oosthuizen began his round by parring his first seven holes and then birdied six of his final 11.
“I’ve learned over the years playing major championships that patience is the key thing, and even if you make bogeys, know that a lot of people are going to make bogeys,’’ he said. “I was just very patient. I gave myself a lot of opportunities.’’
Oosthuizen has made putting himself in position at major championships an art form. He, too, has he mastered the art of resiliency.
Asked how long it takes for him to get over the close-call runner-up finishes, Oosthuizen said, “It depends if you lost it or someone else beat you.’’
He said that, as the runner-up to Mickelson at the PGA in May and to Rahm at the U.S. Open last month, he felt he was “beaten by better golf at the end there.’’
“It takes a little while, but you have to get over it quickly, otherwise it’s going to hold you back to perform again,’’ he said.
Oosthuizen has several secrets to his resiliency.
Firstly, he never takes himself too seriously, as evidenced by the brilliant YouTube video he posted of himself lip-synching Adele’s hit song “Rise Up’’ in 2017.
He also has learned to move on from disappointment on the golf course with a short memory.
“I feel if you do the work that you feel you should have done to get ready for a tournament and you left everything sort of out on the course, then there’s not much more that you can do,’’ he said. “I do get upset on shots if I hit bad shots and things like that, but I try and always be at the best mindset for the next golf shot and the next tournament or the next round.
“I try and not think too much of mistakes that you make on the golf course. I try and focus on every time hitting the best shot that I can hit, and I feel that’s the only way you can sort of go forward in this game.’’
Oosthuizen said, after his disappointing finishes, he gets away from the game on his farm in South Africa with his family to “just get my head away from golf completely.’’
“I’m always on the tractor,’’ he said. “I don’t need to play good or bad to be on the tractor.’’