Gleneagles - South African golfer George Coetzee edged ever closer to a maiden European tour win as he lost in a five man playoff at the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, in Scotland, on Sunday.
He was eliminated on the fifth playoff hole as Dane Thomas Bjorn went on to win with a birdie on the fifth playoff hole.
By the fifth hole of sudden death it was just Coetzee and Bjorn left, and with the professional from Pretoria Country Club driving it into the rough, was unable to match the Dane's birdie.
It was Coetzee's fifth top ten finish of the season, which after dropping out in sudden death he had to settle for a share of second.
Earlier, his rounds of 77, 66, 67 and 67 for a four round total 277, 11-under par gave him a good chance of picking up a the victory setting the target in the clubhouse.
After signing his card he went to the driving range to keep loose in the event of a playoff, and would not have seen Englishman Mark Foster's stumble with the lead before having to hole a testing three-footer to keep his tournament alive on the 72nd hole.
Foster's only other European tour win came in Johannesburg at the co-sanctioned Dunhill championship, in 2003, in a six man playoff on that occasion.
The group including Bjorn, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger and Foster went back to the par five 18th hole to find a winner in sudden death.
No player was able to make a decent run at birde on the first playoff hole, as Wiesberger dropped out with a bogey.
Larrazabal dropped out after the second hole, again par was good enough to continue the playoff, now reduced to three.
The third playoff hole saw Coetzee make the first birdie of the playoff from outside six feet, and Foster and Bjorn, who were both closer, followed the South African with a birdie four.
On the fourth playoff hole Coetzee and Foster drove into the left rough, and the Englishman battled to make the green in four shots as he was unable to make par. Coetzee had a better lie and was able to hit his third shot to a little over ten feet. Bjorn from the perfect position for his third, nestled his approach close for a certain birdie. Coetzee showed good nerves as he again holed out for birdie, and Bjorn tapped in to send it to a fifth hole of sudden death as Foster fell out.
Coetzee was unable to match the birdie of Bjorn on the fifth playoff hole.
Coetzee's final round included six birdies and one drop shot at the par four third hole. He began his round with a birdie on his first hole and picked up three more shots on the fifth, sixth and ninth holes to go out in three-under. The 25-year-old picked up two more shots on the back nine to vault up the leaderboard.
The long driving South African looked in danger of missing the cut after a first round five par 77 but reeled of 21 birdies in his last three rounds to mount a strong challenge for the title.
Jaco van Zyl also produced a good finish courtesy of a final round 68 with a share of 11th on seven-under par for the tournament.
The only other SA player to make the weekend was Hennie Otto who finished well down in a tie for 61st.
Leading and selected final round scores in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles on Sunday (GBR/IRL unless stated, par 72):
277 - Mark Foster 66-71-68-72, George Coetzee (RSA) 77-66-67-67, Thomas Bjorn (DEN) 68-69-71-69, Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 70-68-70-69, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 69-71-68-69
(Bjorn won after the fifth play-off hole)
278 - Stephen Gallacher 74-68-67-69, Joel Sjoholm (SWE) 70-71-69-68
279 - Victor Dubuisson 69-70-73-67, Kenneth Ferrie 68-69-73-69, Ignacio Garrido (ESP) 67-69-69-74
281 - Gary Boyd 70-71-72-68, Jaco van Zyl (RSA) 68-73-72-68, Marc Warren 70-69-70-72
282 - Chris Wood 69-73-70-70, Carlos Del Moral (ESP) 72-70-69-71, Noh Seung-yul (KOR) 72-71-68-71, Simon Dyson 70-71-69-72, Magnus A Carlsson (SWE) 67-72-70-73, Peter Lawrie 68-69-71-74
284 - Edoardo Molinari (ITA) 74-70-69-71, 286 - Raphael Jacquelin (FRA) 69-70-76-71, 288 - Thongchai Jaidee (THA) 71-69-76-72, 292 - Paul Lawrie 72-72-73-75, 294 - Colin Montgomerie 70-73-77-74