Oosthuizen back in the hunt

Louis Oosthuizen (AFP)
Louis Oosthuizen (AFP)

Augusta - Louis Oosthuizen put a forgetful year behind him when he made a bright start to the Masters on Thursday, shooting a three-under-par 69 to finish the opening round tied for second place.

The South African, who has been plagued by back problems in the last year, had six birdies and three bogeys on a difficult day for scoring at Augusta National to put himself in great position to challenge for the title.

"It was great fun out there," he told reporters. "I tried to smile my troubles away when it got difficult."

Oosthuizen burst on to the world golfing stage when he won the 2010 British Open and almost won the 2012 Masters after making an albatross in his final round.

He went on to lose to Bubba Watson in a playoff and missed the cut last year before his ailing back started to play up.

The 31-year-old retired from the US Open and British Open and did not enter the PGA Championship because of a bulging disc in his back that prevented him from practising.

He had a scare on the eve of the Masters when he felt a tweak in his back after picking up his daughter but said he felt fine during Thursday's opening round.

"Some days it's good, some days it's not, so I'm managing it pretty good, knowing what I should and shouldn't," he explained.

"One of the things is probably not to pick up my little girl running towards me. That's tough to not do that, but I just need to manage it some. Hopefully, in a few months it will be better and I'll be fine."

After making a bogey on the tricky first hole, Oosthuizen quickly regained his composure, reeling off four birdies in his next eight holes to climb up the leaderboard.

He came unstuck on the 12th, the deceptive par-three at Amen Corner, when he misjudged the wind and stuck his tee shot into the water, but finished his round in great style when he drained a 20-foot birdie putt at the last.

"If you're playing well, I can see myself doing really well this week," he said.

"Last year I wasn't on my game, I felt like I was struggling with my short game and these greens you can't struggle in that area of your game."

Collated first round scores in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National on Thursday(USA unless stated, par 72):

68 - Bill Haas

69 - Adam Scott (AUS), Bubba Watson , Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)

70 - Kevin Stadler, Marc Leishman (AUS), K J Choi (KOR), Jimmy Walker, Gary Woodland, Brandt Snedeker, Jonas Blixt (SWE)

71 - Francesco Molinari (ITA), Rory McIlroy (NIR), Stephen Gallacher (SCO), Miguel Angel Jimenez (ESP), Matteo Manassero (ITA), Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth, Fred Couples

72 - Bernhard Langer (GER), Nick Watney, Steve Stricker , Graeme McDowell

(NIR), Sang-moon Bae (KOR), John Senden (AUS), Kevin Streelman

73 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Matt Kuchar, Stewart Cink , Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Russell Henley, Mike Weir (CAN), Thomas Bjorn (DEN), Boo Weekley, Jamie Donaldson (WAL), Lee Westwood (ENG), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Patrick Reed

74 - Brendon De Jonge, Steven Bowditch (AUS), Darren Clarke (NIR), Harris English , Matthew Jones (AUS), Webb Simpson , Victor Dubuisson (FRA), Hunter Mahan , Jose-Maria Olazabal (ESP), Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia (ESP), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Roberto Castro , Larry Mize

75 - Chris Kirk, Scott Stallings , Joost Luiten (NED), Lucas Glover , Martin Kaymer (GER), Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (ESP), Jason Day (AUS), Keegan Bradley, Vijay Singh (FIJ), Mark O'Meara, Ernie Els (RSA), Ken Duke, John Huh, Billy Horschel

76 - Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose (ENG), Oliver Goss (AUS), (x) Garrick Porteous (ENG), Ian Poulter (ENG), Sandy Lyle (SCO), Derek Ernst, (x) Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG)

77 - Dustin Johnson, Matthew Every, Ian Woosnam (WAL), Luke Donald (ENG), Ryan Moore, Y.E. Yang (KOR)

78 - Peter Hanson (SWE), D.A. Points , Zach Johnson , Tom Watson , Michael McCoy, Angel Cabrera (ARG), David Lynn (ENG)

79 - Trevor Immelman (RSA), Tim Clark (RSA)

80 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Jason Dufner, Chang-woo Lee (KOR), Graham Delaet (CAN)

81 - Jordan Niebrugge

82 - Craig Stadler

83 - Ben Crenshaw

84 - Branden Grace (RSA)

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