DORAL, Fla. – The Masters is over a month away, but the aura of playing at Augusta National is hanging over 11 players at this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship.
George Coetzee is among those 11 players, as he is ranked 58th in the Official World Golf Ranking and has only two ways to return to the Masters – either win on the PGA Tour over the next month or get back into the OWGR’S top 50.
With winning so difficult on the PGA Tour and that he may only play this week in the U.S before the Masters, the South African knows that this week is very important, but tries not to think about it.
Tiger Woods returned to action with his Nike VR Pro Blades on Thursday.
Ernie Els became an Adams staff player at the start of the season and is now using these XTD Cross Cavity irons.
Bubba Watson used Ping’s S59 irons for years, but he was instrumental in the development of the S55 irons and now has them in play along with his Tour-S lob wedge.
Before withdrawing due to a thumb injury, Jason Day was using these TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC irons and SLDR driver.
Chris Kirk shows pride in his alma mater on his Callaway Mack Daddy 2 wedges.
Ian Poulter not only has the names of his children stamped into his Titleist Vokey Design SM5 lob wedge, he’s also got names of Ferraris on it too.
Rory McIlroy uses Nike VR Pro Blades and VR Forged wedges.
Luke Donald, one of the PGA Tour’s best iron players, switched to these Mizuno MP-64 irons last season.
Sergio Garcia’s TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC irons are guarded by a bull which covers his driver.
Billy Horschel went to the University of Florida and shows his Gator colors on his Ping S55 irons.
While Phil Mickelson practiced on the green Wednesday afternoon, his Callaway bag was close by.
Phil Mickelson has switched to Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha driver, an X2 Hot Deep 2-wood and the company’s new Apex Pro irons.
Adam Scott is using a Titleist 680 irons at Trump National Doral.
Brandt Snedker uses Bridgestone’s J40 Cavity Back and J40 Black Oxide wedges.
TaylorMade brought the unreleased SLDR MiniDriver to Doral and several players tested it on the range.
This is a prototype Scotty Cameron for Titleist Dualbalance Select Fastback.
Gary Woodland’s Callaway Razr X Muscleback irons has received plenty of custom paint.
Ping’s staff players will be wearing these special hats at Doral. The racing stripes match the strips on the crown of the new i25 woods.
In case you had any doubt, yes, those are Rickie Fowler’s Cobra Tour Trusty wedges.
Jason Dufner’s Titleist Vokey Design wedges have snowflake-style DUFs stamped into them.
Henrik Stenson won last season’s FedEx Cup using these Callaway Legacy Black irons.
Martin Kaymer has switched to TaylorMade’s new Tour Preferred MC irons.
Justin Rose is using a split set of TaylorMade Tour Preferred MC and Tour Preferred Muscleback irons. He also had two Cleveland 60-degree wedges in his bag Tuesday morning.
Jim Furyk has Callaway’s Razr X Forged irons in his bag again this week at Doral.
Jordan Spieth is hoping these Titleist 714 AP2 irons will help him win his first World Golf Championship.
D.A. Points is still using Ping’s venerable i5 irons.
These are the Nike VR Pro Cavity and Nike VR Pro Combo irons Russell Henley used to win last week’s Honda Classic.
Zach Johnson switched to Titleist’s 714 AP2 irons during the offseason.
Zach Johnson also uses Titleist’s Pro V1x golf ball.
Hunter Mahan plays Ping’s S55 irons. His sand wedge is a Ping Tour with Gorge Grooves and he uses a Ping Eye2 XG lob wedge.
Keegan Bradley uses Cleveland CG7 Tour irons, but also has a Cleveland 588 TT 3-iron.
Nick Watney, whose nickname is Rube, uses Nike’s VR Pro Blade irons and VR Forged wedges.
Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez has a bag full of Ping S55 irons.
“The idea this week is just to play well and enjoy myself and hopefully post a couple of good rounds because I feel like I’m playing well and my game is coming along nicely,” Coetzee said. “I don’t want to play for other things rather than just play for what I’m here to do this week.”
Coetzee entered the 2014 calendar year in the mid-90s in the world rankings, but has skyrocketed up with a fourth at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, a fifth at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters, a win at the Joburg Open and then the ninth-place finish at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
The high finish by Coetzee in match play moved him all the way to 53rd in the world and on the cusp of making it back to Augusta, but last week’s 50th at the Tshwane Open dropped the South African back to 58th.
“I guess it just shows that I can compete with these guys,” Coetzee said of his match-play performance. “It wasn’t really a question of how my game works in the States because I think I’ve played enough here to know how to play proper golf, and hopefully this week it’ll pay off.”
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The Masters last qualification category is for a player to be in the top 50 in the world the week before the Masters, which would be the Monday of the Shell Houston Open. So unless a player wins on the PGA Tour this week, at Tampa, Bay Hill, Valero or Shell, then they must be in the top 50 in the world rankings.
For Coetzee his path to Augusta is unclear and depends a lot on this week’s performance.
If he plays well this week he will stay in the U.S. and play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If he doesn’t have a good week, Coetzee has his ticket for Morocco booked to play in the Trophee Hassan II event and then back to South Africa to play in the Investec Cup, his last chance to earn enough points to move into the top 50.
“I’ve got no expectations, and nobody is expecting anything of me except myself,” Coetzee said. “And I guess that’s kind of a good thing coming to the States.”