South African rookie outshines battling Oosthuizen

Leopard Creek: South African rookie Anthony Michael outshone British Open title holder Louis Oosthuizen on Thursday by taking the first-round lead at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Michael fired a six-under-par 66 at an overcast Leopard Creek Country Club to lie one shot ahead of German Sebastian Buhl, Englishman Robert Rock, Norwegian Marius Thorp and South African Dawie van der Walt.

But Oosthuizen, a 28-year-old native of Mossel Bay in the western Cape who stunned the golf world last July with a runaway triumph at St Andrews, slumped to a four-over 76 that included two double bogeys.

The Johannesburg-reared son of a weekend golfer, Michael struck his first ball at the age of three and displayed no nerves on only his fourth round at a course 400 kilometres east of Johannesburg in the Mpumalanga province.

"I hit only three fairways all day, but my game was good from the rough and amazing on the greens," he boasted after holing several long putts on tricky bent-grass greens.

"My putter worked really well today. I sank a 50- to 60-footer for birdie on the eighth and a 25-footer on the next hole," said the burly South African, who completed a four-year golf scholarship in Oklahoma last year.

Defending champion Pablo Martin of Spain fared best out of the six former winners in the 156-strong field for the opening event of the European Tour Road to Dubai circuit, won by German Martin Kaymer this year.

South African Charl Schwartzel shot a 70, Englishman John Bickerton a 71, South African Richard Sterne a 73 -- after a lengthy injury lay-off -- and Englishman Anthony Wall and German Marcel Siem needed 74 strokes each.

The pre-tournament spotlight shone on Oosthuizen, ranked 24 in the world but struggling to shake off an ankle injury sustained while hunting not long after his Open triumph.

Though Oosthuizen struggled, especially on the front nine, to tame a 6631-metre layout designed by South African golf legend Gary Player and ranked number one in the country, unknown Michael had a ball.

He picked up seven birdies -- six of them at par fours -- and dropped only one stroke on a course that borders world famous wildlife utopia Kruger National Park.

After a seven at the par-five second, Oosthuizen got back on track with a couple of birdies before a double bogey-bogey-bogey finish to the front nine left him four over on 39 at the turn.

Bureau Report