Coetzee fires 69 to move into contention
Friday, July 18, 2014
HOYLAKE, England – George Coetzee’s birthday always falls during Open Championship week. The South African gave himself a tidy 3-under 69 to celebrate his 28th. When asked whether he planned to have birthday dinner and drinks tonight with his girlfriend and mom, Coetzee said, “Yeah, a couple of Cokes.”
When you’re one shot behind Rory McIlroy at the Open Championship, a bit of restraint is in order. There will plenty of drinks come Sunday if a certain jug is involved.
This marks Coetzee’s fourth Open Championship. In his debut, in 2011 at Royal St. George’s, he opened with back-to-back 69s and finished 15th.
PHOTOS: 2014 British Open, Friday
See what's happening round the golf course in photos from the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
“At one stage in my career, I averaged 69s for majors,” Coetzee said, laughing.
He won four times on South Africa’s Sunshine Tour before winning for the first time on the European Tour, in February at the Joburg Open. That got him into the WGC-Accenture Match Play where he took down Steve Stricker and Patrick Reed before losing to Jason Day in the third round.
There was a point Friday when Coetzee looked up at the leaderboard and saw his named tied with McIlroy at 6 under. Coetzee went on to say that the moment was obvious because he went on to bogey the next two holes.
With winds gusting considerably Friday, Coetzee played the front nine in even par before going on a tremendous run – 2-3-2 – midway through his back nine. He three-putted the par-5 16th and then found the hay on the 17th to drop two shots. On the par-5 18th, Coetzee hit driver, 2-iron left and then pitched it up nicely to 6 feet and made birdie to finish at 5-under 139.
Coetzee grew up in Pretoria, which is about 4,400 feet above sea level, on parkland courses. Until age 16, he couldn’t break 80 on coastline tracks. Eventually he found his way, winning a Sunshine Tour event on a links course. He since has grown to enjoy the style.
“There’s a lot more imagination,” Coetzee said, “and you can putt from anywhere.”
And with that, he was off to put his feet up, have a birthday pop and watch the wind blow.