Coetzee a dark horse at Open?

2012-11-14 19:12

Ekurhuleni - He brushes aside memories of last year’s missed cut in the South African Open Championship, and that’s because George Coetzee is just where he wants to be ahead of this year’s event at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate.

“I’m quite happy to be under the radar,” said the 26-year-old Pretoria professional who is ranked 70th in the world - the fourth highest-ranked player in the field.

There is a lot of hoopla around the ‘marquee’ names in the tournament - Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Branden Grace and Henrik Stenson - and that’s just fine for Coetzee who has spent the last two years on the European Tour hunting a maiden win which is surely not too far off.

He has compiled an impressive seven top-10 finishes on this year’s European Tour, with a best of a share of fourth behind his good mate Grace in April’s Volvo China Open.

That’s nearly as good as his 2011 season in Europe, where he had eight top-10s with a second place in the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles in Scotland, losing out in a thrilling five-way playoff to Thomas Bjorn.

Part of Coetzee’s 2012 included six weeks off after playing in his first US PGA Championship and missing the cut there.

“I played at Serengeti a lot during that time,” said Coetzee. “I was working on my game, so there were no scores for me to look back on.”

Something worked, because when he went back to Europe in October, he reeled off three successive top-10s in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the Portugal Masters and the BMW Masters in China.

And he also produced an eye-popping second-round eight-under-par 63 in the Singapore Open last week on his way to a share of 14th.

So the form is there, as well as an appreciation for the Jack Nicklaus-designed Serengeti layout: “I think I like it because it suits my fade,” he said. “I also like Pearl Valley, and that’s a Nicklaus design too.”

He finished in a share of 19th behind Richard Sterne in the 2008 SA Open held there, and 31st behind Richie Ramsay in 2009.

With all eyes on the so-called ‘big names’, it would not be at all surprising to see Coetzee hoisting the SA Open trophy aloft on Sunday.