HOYLAKE, England — Home favourite Tommy Fleetwood joined South African amateur Christo Lamprecht at the top of the leaderboard on five under par on the opening day of the 151st British Open at Hoylake.
Crouching over the ball with his legs wide apart, Christo Lamprecht – all 6-foot-8 (2.03 metres) of him – crunched his last drive of the day into the fairway and more than 350 yards.
Lamprecht´s first ever round at a British Open was one this amateur, and those watching him, won´t quickly forget.
“Look at the size of him,” was one of the muffled remarks from outside the ropes along the 18th fairway as the 22-year-old South African loped after his ball, his golf pants not long enough to cover his socks.
At one stage at Royal Liverpool, Lamprecht was leading by three strokes. He wound up shooting 5-under 66 and was in a tie for the lead with Tommy Fleetwood and Emiliano Grillo.
“I mean, as an amateur, yes, it is,” said Lamprecht, who was considered among the top college players in the US for the last two years. “But in my own head, no, it´s not. I´m very hard on myself, and I earned my spot to be here.”
Lamprecht is growing fond of this part of the world.
This month, he won the British Amateur at Hillside, a course an hour up the coast along the Irish Sea, to qualify for the Open for the first time.
Now, he is leading most of the world´s best players on the biggest stage in golf. He even beat playing partner and compatriot Louis Oosthuizen by eight shots and that meant a lot to Lamprecht, who came through Oosthuizen´s foundation in South Africa.
“Having someone that I know very well and is a ginormous mentor for me, that I´ve played previously with, kind of helped me feel a little bit more at home and at ease,” Lamprecht said of the 2010 Open champion.
“He´s an amazing support, and he was supporting me the whole way through.”
Lamprecht went out in the eighth group of the day and made three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 3 – including a putt from 25 feet after a 332-yard drive at the third – to take the lead.
He chipped in from 40 yards for birdie at No. 14 and a short birdie putt at the par-5 15th gave him that three-shot lead. He gave one back at No. 16 before two-putting for birdie at the par-5 last hole.
Lamprecht said his stock drive goes about 325 yards and that he can get to a 340-yard carry, the kind of length that was impressing another big hitter, Bryson DeChambeau, on the range this week.
Lamprecht was taking plenty off his drives in his first round, he said, because of the roll on the fairways on a beautiful morning at Hoylake.
“Hitting it far is not what I think golf is all about,” he said according to AP. “I think links golf is a true test of golf and it´s the way golf is supposed to be played.”
Oosthuizen was impressed with what he saw from Lamprecht, especially his composure in the glare of being the Open leader for much of the round. It also shines a positive light on his foundation.
“He´s got a great demeanor. Great kid,” Oosthuizen said. “I mean, he´s very patient and he´s got game.”
“The length he hits off the tee,” he added, “there are a lot of bunkers not in play which is a big advantage.”
Lamprecht´s size runs in the family. His father was 6-foot-4 and the shortest of the last five generations, with his great grandfather about 7 foot tall.
He said that whatever happens this week, he´ll stay on for his final year at college and then turn pro.
“At the start of my college career, I made a promise to our head coach I was going to stay four years,” he said, “and I think you´re only as valuable as your word.”