Alfred Dunhill Championship: Oosthuizen enjoying his home comforts
Louis Oosthuizen is hoping to use this week's season-opening Alfred Dunhill Championship at Malelane to continue building momentum after a recent ankle injury.
The Open champion, the world number 24, is the highest-ranked player present at the Leopard Creek Country Club, where fellow high-profile South Africans Charl Schwartzel and 2008 winner Richard Sterne will also compete for the 158,500 euro (£132,989) top prize.
Four other previous champions — Spaniard Pablo Martin (2009), English duo John Bickerton (2007) and Anthony Wall (2000) and Germany's Marcel Siem (2004) — have also entered the co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event, which is the first of the 2011 season.
Oosthuizen has had limited playing time since his victory at St Andrews in July, completing just five more tournaments before suffering a freak ankle injury whilst on a hunting trip in his homeland.
That put him out for two months and his return so far has seen him end 72nd at the World Golf Championships in China, 13th at the Dubai World Championship and bottom of a 12-man field at last week's Nedbank Golf Challenge.
“I had a long break and then in Dubai I played really nicely,” he said. “I got the game back to sort of a way that I could play and be in contention and then Nedbank was a bit rough.
“I think I took a few steps backward there last week. But this week I found a few things in my swing and I feel really good.
“It's been a while since I played, so I knew it's going to take me a tournament or two just to get back in it. It's the third tournament back and I'm now feeling pretty confident.”
Oosthuizen also confirmed that he was now fully over his injury, saying: “The ankle is fine. I'm still doing my stretches and things with it I need to do, but it's perfect.”
The 28-year-old finished second in the competition in 2005, but his last four visits have all seen him leave before the weekend after missing the cut.
He added: “It (my return to South Africa) has been good. Playing in the Nedbank has been a dream of mine since I was a little boy, so that was fun. “
Belfast’s Michael Hoey and Bangor’s Jonny Caldwell are also in the field.