Coetzee eyes up Sunshine Tour Order of Merit

George Coetzee is not saying it out loud yet, but he has one eye firmly fixed on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit as he tees it up in the €1-million Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

The 25-year-old Pretoria Country Club professional lies fourth on the Order of Merit with just two tournaments left in the 2011 season, and with the leader Charl Schwartzel out of the running because he won’t play the requisite six tournaments to qualify, Coetzee has a clear view of second-placed Garth Mulroy.

And a good performance on the 6,665-metre (7,249-yard) Leopard Creek layout will go a long way to closing the R486,811 gap between himself and Mulroy – who would dearly like to go one beter than his 2008 second-place finish behind Richard Sterne.

“If I play well, which I am going to try and do, I think things will take care of themselves,” said Coetzee. “I’m not trying to focus on any one of those specific things, except on playing well.”

He also has 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen ahead of him on the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, but Oosthuizen has only one South African tournament to his name this year – his January victory in the Africa Open – so he too is ineligible for the title.

For Coetzee, a second South African victory will set the seal on a golden year: He finished 15th in the Open Championship, has seven top-10s in Europe, and he won South Africa’s Telkom PGA Championship.

“I’ve got three events left, and I’ll be looking to push hard in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “If I can sneak a win, it would be nice.”

He finds himself in 26th spot on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai ahead of the season-ending Dubai World Championship, and with the top 15 players getting to share a lucrative bonus when the dust settles, he’s focusing on climbing the rankings.

“My focus is Dubai,” he said. “But I tend to play well when I focus on an event – I play well in the buildup. When my focus was on the Open, four or five weeks before the event, I started playing well. I think focusing on something other than what you are busy with always helps to take the pressure off.”

And there will be pressure in pursuing Mulroy – it’s just that he has a good attitude now: “I’m not going to try and make my golf take me somewhere,” he said. “I’m just going to let my golf take me somewhere.”

Not forcing it is a good idea.

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