A delighted Louis Oosthuizen felt he played the “perfect round” as a bogey-free 64 lifted him into the clubhouse lead on day one of The 149th Open.
Oosthuizen, the Champion Golfer of the Year in 2010 at St Andrews, started off with seven successive pars on Thursday, before catching fire around the turn.
Birdies at eight, nine and 10 were followed by three more at 13, 14 and 16, meaning the South African headed the field by a stroke from Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman at six under.
“(It was) probably in my mind the perfect round I could have played,” said Oosthuizen.
“I didn't make many mistakes. When I had good opportunities for birdie, I made the putts. So yeah, just a very good solid round.”
Oosthuizen arrived at Royal St George’s in fine form, having finished second at each of the last two majors – the PGA Championship and U.S. Open.
That took his tally of runner-up finishes in majors to six, in addition to his triumph at the home of golf 11 years ago.
“It gives me confidence going into majors knowing that I'm still competing in them and I've still got chances of winning,” he added.
“Once the week starts, I need to get that out of my mind and just focus on every round and every shot. But it definitely puts me in a better frame of mind going into the week.
“I think in both of those (the PGA and U.S. Open) I was beaten by better golf at the end there. You have to get over it quickly, otherwise it's going to hold you back to perform again.
“But yeah, I tried to take a few days and just try and forget about it and see if I can get myself ready for the next one.”
Oosthuizen credited patience as a key factor in his excellent performance on Thursday, after he was made to wait until the eighth for his first birdie.
“I’ve learned over the years playing major championships that patience is the key thing, and even if you make bogeys, you know that a lot of people are going to make bogeys,” he reasoned.
“I was just very patient. I was trying to just hit my shots and didn't really hit anything close enough to make birdies those first few holes, and then all of a sudden I just made two good putts on eight and nine and got the ball rolling.
“It happened quickly, but you still need to put yourself in those positions, and I felt definitely the last 10, 11 holes I gave myself a lot of opportunities.”
Oosthuizen will be back out at 2:59pm BST in round two, alongside reigning Champion Golfer Shane Lowry and world number two Jon Rahm.
Lowry and Rahm each had to settle for 71s on Thursday, leaving them with work to do if they are to challenge for the Claret Jug.