Coetzee could surprise at The Open

George Coetzee is one of the darkest horses at this year’s Open Championship, mostly because he’s been out of the spotlight since playing his first US Open in June.


This week at Muirfield the man who holds the St. Andrews course record might just bloom into a fairytale winner, but that is the lament of every underdog.


In a nutshell Coetzee has become that certain player who has the game to win anything, but cannot make four rounds stick together. Over the 2013 season he’s slipped to 66th in the World Ranking, but that could be the exact reason that we find Coetzee thriving at Muirfield. He’s a tougher player than when he last tried to win the Claret Jug.


The Pretoria Country Club professional lost his European Tour card in 2010, but regained it the following year and made eight top 10s to seal his place in Europe. He took a playoff at the Johnnie Walker Championship to five holes before Thomas Bjorn triumphed, and last year missed only three cuts in 25 European Tour events.


The mental game is crucial and Coetzee, who celebrates his 27th birthday on Thursday, has learnt the hard way that you have to miss it in the right places. When he tees up for his third Open Championship, he’ll bring those experiences to the course.


Coetzee ranks inside the top 20 of the European Tour statistics tables for driving distance and putts per round.


But this week there will be plenty of focus on accuracy, and his long irons are going to play a huge role. That’s something the young gun must focus on in his assault on Muirfield, because he ranks outside the top 100 for greens made in regulation.


The outcome for Coetzee centres around his mental preparation. After a month off and with his birthday coinciding with round one, don’t be shocked when Coetzee’s bursts into the lead.


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