AS IT STANDS -11 Oosthuizen; -9 Morikawa; -8 Spieth; -7 Frittelli, Johnson, Scheffler; -6 Van Tonder, Grillo, Siem, Sullivan, Harding. SELECTED OTHERS -5 Koepka, Casey, Rahm; E McIlroy; +1 MacIntyre, DeChambeau.
Whatever else happens this weekend, Louis Oosthuizen will leave Royal St George’s having made a little piece of history.
A second round 65 – one shot worse than his opening salvo – has given the South African the lowest 36-hole total in Open Championship history.
A fine distinction but one that will play second fiddle to the Claret Jug should he manage to convert his 36-hole lead into a second victory in golf’s oldest major.
Oosthuizen, six times a runner-up on golf’s grandest stages since he made his breakthrough at St Andrews in 2010, holds a two-shot advantage over Collin Morikawa, with another ‘Champion Golfer of the Year’, Jordan Spieth, a shot further adrift.
World No.1 Dustin Johnson is tied on seven-under alongside another American Scottie Scheffler as well as Oosthuizen’s South African compatriot Dylan Frittelli, with major specialist and Bryson DeChambeau’s tormentor-in-chief Brooks Koepka neatly placed at five-under.
It has the makings of a potentially thrilling weekend on the Kent coast and, whilst Oosthuizen is determined that, after so many recent near-misses, this will be the weekend he claims major win number two, he's refusing to look too far ahead.
“You try not to think about it until you've done it,” he said. “Looking back at 2010, and I know I had a big lead, but the first time I really thought winning the tournament was after my tee shot on 17. There were a lot of things that could go wrong at St Andrews coming in, especially the tee shots on 14 and 16 and 17.
“Around this golf course, a lot of things can happen. I don't think you want to think too much about it on a links course until you get to that 18th green, and hopefully you have a lead.”
Morikawa, meantime, is determined to spoil Oosthuizen’s weekend. The 2020 US PGA champion set a blistering early pace, carding a six-under 64 in perfect early morning conditions. But for a bogey at 15, he could feasibly have broken the Royal St George’s Open course record (63), if not the all-time major championship record (62). Not that he knew any of that.
“I'm awful with golf history, unfortunately, like just remembering certain facts,” said the 24-year-old. “I did not know 63 was the low out here. I just kind of came out and played golf.
“For me, hopefully we can just create memories and create lifetime memories that hopefully Sunday comes along and we can talk again.”
Elsewhere, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre continued his impressive major championship cut streak – albeit only just – whilst several big names made an early exit.
Spare a thought for the USA's Will Zalatoris. He was forced to withdraw ahead of the second round after tweaking his back.