Louis Oosthuizen ended 2023 with two fine victories on home soil and it appears that could signify the start of something big this season as he ominously moved into a share of the third-round lead today in the US$2million International Series Oman.

He carded a five-under-par 67 at Al Mouj Golf in Muscat, to take pole position on 12-under with Mexican Carlos Ortiz, who shot a 68.

Thailand’s Prom Meesawat, in with the best round of the day – a 65 – is a shot further back in a tie for third with Filipino Justin Quiban (67), Travis Smyth (68) from Australia, Chinese amateur Sampson Zheng (68) and American Peter Uihlein (70).

Halfway leader Mito Pereira from Chile had a poor day, signing for a 76 to tumble down the leaderboard and end on seven under, in a tie for 15th.

South Africa’s Oosthuizen won the Alfred Dunhill Championship and AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open back-to-back in December and made his move today clearly enjoying the challenge that Al Mouj Golf – voted by the Asian Tour players as the joint best course last year – offers.

“I played well,” said the 41-year-old, winner of The Open in 2010 and also a runner-up in six other Majors and third in two more.

“The greens are very firm. It’s good, they are running true. You need to really focus on where you want to land that second shot, so hitting fairways is very important.

“I am hitting it very well. I am still struggling a bit on the greens, finding the right lines, my speed and lines aren’t matching up but with the greens as good as this it’s a good test.”

On a day when the wind picked up slightly, he went expertly bogey-free and has only made one bogey through 54 holes, the fifth on day one.

He added: “When it is like this I try and hit as many greens in regulation. When it’s like this and not really going to the pin you pick out a position on the green and give yourself some kind of putt. I like when it’s tough like this, when you need to think your way around the golf course.”

He also won on the LIV Golf League last year when his Stinger GC team triumphed in Tulsa.

Ortiz has also kept a remarkably clean sheet with the only blemish coming on his very first hole on Thursday, where he made a double.

“I am playing solid, just trying to minimise mistakes, been trying to give myself some room and put pressure on those second shots,” said the Mexican, who is on the Torque GC team this season on LIV Golf having played for the Fireballs last season, when they won two events.

“I have done that really well, that’s been working. I am not trying to be too aggressive, just find the greens and give myself chances. It is the kind of golf course when you start pushing you can make mistakes.”

The appearance of Prom on the leaderboard will have been accompanied by a roar of applause on the Asian Tour.

The popular 39-year-old is a two-time winner on the Asian Tour, but his last win came back at the 2014 Yeangder Tournament Players Championship.

Nicknamed the ‘Big Dolphin’ due to his big physique and the fact that he hails from the coastal town of Hua Hin in Thailand, he is clearly in his comfort zone here at Al Mouj Golf, also on a sun-drenched coastline like his home.

He said: “Playing seven-under-par for me on this golf course when it is windy is great. I am hitting well except for my second shot on the last. I was rolling my putts very good today. On the front nine when I had a chance for a birdie I made every putt.

“I just play my game, try to focus on myself and not compare with anyone. Just hit my shot, play my game, put myself in a good place to make birdies.

“I can’t reach some of these par-fives, so I just lay up, and hit a full wedge, and manage my game.”

The International Series Oman is the first event of year on The International Series, 10 upper-tier events sanctioned by the Asian Tour that provide a pathway to the LIV Golf League.

It’s also the second event of 2024 on the Asian Tour, which began at last week’s IRS Prima Malaysian Open, where victory went to Spaniard David Puig.

Puig shot a 70 and is six off the lead.

Defending champion Takumi Kanaya from Japan carded the same score and is one shot better.

Scores after round 3 of the International Series Oman, being played at Al Mouj Golf, a par-72, 7,438-yard course (am – denotes amateur):

204 – Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 71-66-67, Carlos Ortiz (MEX) 67-69-68.

205 – Prom Meesawat (THA) 70-70-65, Justin Quiban (PHI) 71-67-67, Travis Smyth (AUS) 69-68-68, Sampson Zheng (am, CHN) 68-69-68, Peter Uihlein (USA) 69-66-70.

206 – Lucas Herbert (AUS) 70-69-67, Kieran Vincent (ZIM) 70-69-67.

207 – Joaquin Niemann (CHI) 66-73-68, Matthew Wolff (USA) 71-63-73.

208 – Mingyu Cho (KOR) 69-72-67, Justin Warren (AUS) 70-70-68, Kristoffer Broberg (SWE) 68-70-70.

209 – Scott Vincent (ZIM) 69-71-69, Steve Lewton (ENG) 71-68-70, Takumi Kanaya (JPN) 70-69-70, Dean Burmester (RSA) 69-69-71, Kevin Yuan (AUS) 67-68-74, Mito Pereira (CHI) 67-66-76.

210 – Maverick Antcliff (AUS) 74-68-68, David Puig (ESP) 65-75-70, Ye Wocheng (CHN) 71-68-71, Charng-Tai Sudsom (THA) 68-74-68.

211 – Jbe Kruger (RSA) 69-73-69, Branden Grace (RSA) 72-68-71, Scott Hend (AUS) 69-71-71, Sarit Suwannarut (THA) 68-68-75.

212 – Chikkarangappa S. (IND) 71-70-71, Rattanon Wannasrichan (THA) 71-70-71, Guntaek Koh (KOR) 73-69-70, James Piot (USA) 72-70-70, Austen Truslow (USA) 73-69-70, Stefano Mazzoli (ITA) 69-70-73, Ervin Chang (MAS) 68-71-73, Bio Kim (KOR) 69-70-73, Bjorn Hellgren (SWE) 68-75-69, Deyen Lawson (AUS) 71-66-75.

213 – Karandeep Kochhar (IND) 72-69-72, Richard T. Lee (CAN) 70-72-71, Manav Shah (USA) 67-73-73, Aaron Wilkin (AUS) 73-69-71, Jeev Milkha Singh (IND) 75-68-70.

214 – Sihwan Kim (USA) 69-72-73, Sadom Kaewkanjana (THA) 71-71-72, Lee Chieh-po (TPE) 73-69-72, Suradit Yongcharoenchai (THA) 74-69-71, Hudson Swafford (USA) 69-69-76, Berry Henson (USA) 74-70-70, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 73-71-70.

215 – Michael Maguire (USA) 70-71-74, Abraham Ancer (MEX) 71-70-74, Carlos Pigem (ESP) 73-68-74, Niklas Regner (AUT) 73-67-75, Rashid Khan (IND) 72-70-73, Danthai Boonma (THA) 73-70-72, Sebastian Munoz (COL) 71-72-72, Chan Shih-chang (TPE) 68-75-72, Pavit Tangkamolprasert (THA) 70-74-71, Andrew Dodt (AUS) 75-69-71.

217 – Poom Saksansin (THA) 72-71-74, Jed Morgan (AUS) 71-73-73, Khalid Walid Attieh (am, KSA) 73-71-73.

218 – Honey Baisoya (IND) 74-68-76, Trevor Simsby (USA) 72-72-74, Angelo Que (PHI) 74-70-74, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 73-71-74.

219 – Chonlatit Chuenboonngam (THA) 71-72-76, Zach Murray (AUS) 75-69-75, Hanmil Jung (KOR) 73-71-75.

220 – Chang Wei-lun (TPE) 72-67-81.

222 – Poosit Supupramai (THA) 75-69-78.

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