British Open: Coetzee relishes short stay atop leaderboard

South Africa golfer ties briefly with McIlroy before plummeting.

Afp July 18, 2014

HOYLAKE: Birthday boy George Coetzee had a brief glimpse at the leadership of the British Open on Friday but appeared to suffer a sudden bout of stage fright.

The big-hitter from South Africa celebrated his 28th birthday in style by blasting up the second round leaderboard.

An early bogey at the second was quickly neutralised and three birdies in a row from the 12th saw him at five under for the tournament, just one shy of the lead and with two reachable par-fives to come.

But he missed a three-footer for par at the 16th and hit a wayward drive at the next to leave overnight leader Rory McIlroy untroubled at the top.

A fine birdie at the last brought him in with a 69 and at five under for the tournament he was well set to challenge at the weekend.

Coetzee said that he was aware his name was appearing near the top of the leaderboard due to the many scoreboards that dot the Open course.

“It was quite a good feeling to look at my name and be at the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “Obviously six-under [by McIlroy] was a hell of a score yesterday [Thursday].

“And I didn’t think it was doable today [Friday] to get to that number, but when I made birdie on 13 I was like; well, all right, now I’m pretty close.”

It’s Coetzee’s fourth Open and it has been a long road for him to learn the arts of playing links courses, coming as he does from the plateau highlands of Pretoria.

“As a junior I wasn’t very good at the coast, because I think Pretoria is 4,600 feet above sea level and it’s more parklands golf courses,” he said.

“But as the years went on I tried to teach myself how to play at the coast, and one of my Sunshine Tours wins was on a links golf course.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.

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