George Coetzee will get some of the best possible advice when he plays a practice round at Augusta National with Gary Player on Tuesday ahead of his debut at the Masters.
He will be one of three South African young guns who will take advantage of the opportunity of playing the course with the first non-American to win the event – Player won his first green jacket in 1961, and donned the famous blazer twice more in 1974 and 1978.
“I am especially excited about playing the course on Tuesday, as I haven’t had a practice round at Augusta in at least four years,” said Player in a diary he is writing for the website Golf.com. “I’ll be playing with South African golfers Branden Grace, George Coetzee, and the 2011 Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel.”
Coetzee, 26, will be making his fifth start in a major championship, but his first in the Masters, and he will be hoping that anything Player can impart will help him improve on his very good showing in the Open Championship in 2011 when he finished in a share of 15th.
“All in all, it’s going to be a very exciting day,” said Player. “Hopefully we can advise and inspire some of these young players to go and win another green jacket for South Africa.”
Coetzee made it into the field for the Masters by virtue of his rise into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings by the end of last year, and, while he has four Sunshine Tour victories to his credit, he is still seeking his first win on the European Tour.
And, in an attempt to give himself a decent shot at performing well at the Masters, he has spent the last six weeks in the United States – playing on the PGA Tour when he can, and practicing in US conditions while spending time with Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen.
One of the challenges he will face will be the speed of Augusta’s greens, and Player will have plenty to tell him about that: “Back when I was playing, I would always practice downhill putts on Monday,” said Player.
“I’d pick the spots where the greens were slickest, so I could fully feel their speed. The exercise would remind me where not to hit the second shots. Take the third hole. When they put the flag on the front, if you miss the bunker to the right you might only be 20 foot from the hole, but you cannot get down in two. Or at the 16th – if you miss the green to the right when the pin is on the left, you cannot get down in two.
“I may tell Branden and George and Charl stories like that, but only if they ask. They’ll have to ask the questions. One thing I’ve learned is that I cannot tell you what another man is thinking, even when he is walking down Magnolia Lane,” added Player.
Coetzee would do well to have a lot of questions ready. As Player says, “It’s a long walk down Magnolia Lane. You’ve got time to think about a lot of things.”