Written by
Mike McAllister
Sep 22 2023
- 4 min
Louis and Branden Pre-R1 Chicago

SUGAR GROVE, Ill. – Truth be told, Stinger GC Captain Louis Oosthuizen would rather play in the tough scoring conditions that Rich Harvest Farms offered last year, as opposed to the softer conditions he and the rest of the LIV Golf Chicago field face this week due to recent rain.

“I prefer a firm golf course,” Oosthuizen said with a smile. “I'm short right now, so I need the run on the golf ball.”

Even so, that didn’t stop Oosthuizen from grabbing a share of the first-round lead as he opened with a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday. He’s tied with four other players on a bunched leaderboard in which half the field is within two strokes of the lead.

With Oosthuizen leading the way, the Stingers top the team leaderboard after the first round, with a counting score of 13 under. Charl Schwartzel and Dean Burmester contributed 4-under 67s, while Branden Grace rallied after a poor start by shooting a gritty 2-under 69.

The Stingers have a one-stroke lead as they seek their second team title of the season and seventh podium result. The Stingers have finished third in each of the last three LIV Golf tournaments.

A victory would be nice, and so would catching the front-running 4Aces in the season-long standings, but the Stingers are just as intent on securing a first-round bye for the Team Championship in Miami.

“The top spot going into Miami doesn't really mean a lot,” Oosthuizen said. “You still need to play match play on that Saturday then, and anything can happen. The bye I think is more important sort of to know that you're only starting on Saturday, and you can prepare a little bit more. But it would be nice to chase them down, as well.”

Schwartzel and Burmester had hot stretches during their rounds, as each player reeled off a string of three consecutive birdies at one point.

But Grace actually had the hottest stretch of any Stinger. He carded four consecutive birdies from the second through fifth holes to bounce back from a start in which he doubled his opening hole and bogeyed his third hole of the day.

And while Oosthuizen’s preference may be firm and fast, he knows what it will take to succeed this week.

“Last year we played this golf course, and it was quite firm, and now all of a sudden you need to really get on a drive or two because wherever you pitch it, that's where you're ending up. So, you can attack your second shot on the greens, and you can expect loads of birdies around here,” he said.

“I think the next two days we probably need to do something similar like we did today.”