Open champ Oosthuizen returns in Shanghai

Louis Oosthuizen during Round 1 of the HSBC Champions.

Louis Oosthuizen during Round 1 of the HSBC Champions.

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SHANGHAI – Louis Oosthuizen hasn’t been doing much of a victory lap since winning the British Open at St. Andrews. For about the last two months, he has barely been able to walk.

Oosthuizen is playing for the first time in about two months as he recovers from a freak ankle injury while hunting in South Africa. It is still bothering him, but a 3-under 69 on Thursday at the HSBC Champions took away some of the sting.

“My first round back ... it didn’t feel too great, the ankle,” Oosthuizen said. “I thought if I walk off close to level par, or even 1 or 2 over, it would be satisfying. I played nicely. Short game was quite good, and just a few shows where I’m very restricted on turning. But I found a way out there.”

The 28-year-old South African last played on Sept. 12, where he tied for fourth at the Dutch Open. He headed home for a holiday, which included some hunting and going to the wedding of good friend Charl Schwartzel.

But his plans went awry quickly.

Oosthuizen wounded a buck and was running after it when he tripped in a pot hole and tore the ligaments in his left ankle. Instead of going straight to the hospital, Oosthuizen figured out a way to keep hunting.

“It was the first day of the hunting trip, and I strapped it up,” he said. “But I properly strapped it up. I felt like I had cement around my ankle, that’s how bad I strapped it. So I was still hunting for another two days, but off my feet. I was on the back of a pickup, so I didn’t walk or run or anything.”

He eventually got the diagnosis, and was told it would take anywhere from four to six weeks to heal. Oosthuizen had to skip the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in Bermuda, along with a celebrated return to St. Andrews for the Dunhill Links Championship.

Even though he made it to the HSBC Champions, he is playing with a brace – and will until the end of January, at least.

“The doctors and physios and everyone are so scared of accidentally tripping over it, or even by walking and having an awkward stance in a bunker and things like that,” he said.

Oosthuizen is eighth in the Order of Merit on the European Tour, most likely too far behind to catch up in the Race to Dubai. He’s not worried about that at the moment. In fact, he’s not worried about anything.

“I just want to get back into playing, and playing solid,” he said. “I’m just out there and trying to have fun with everything that’s going on with the ankle. I’m still not expecting too much. I’m just going to get back into it.”

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