George Coetzee shook off the effects of a marathon trip back from the United States to fire a five-under-par 67 on Wednesday to take the first round lead in the Investec Cup at Millvale Private Retreat.
He started his round with a bogey, dropped another shot on the ninth, but he picked up five birdies and an eagle to give himself a one-stroke advantage over Jacques Blaauw, and he was a further shot clear of Mark Williams of Zimbabwe, England’s Ross McGowan, BMW South African Open champion Brandon Stone and Haydn Porteous, who won the Joburg Open.
“I’m nice and tired,” said Coetzee. “If you don’t have to think too much on the golf course, then that’s always positive. I just told myself beforehand to make good decisions. That’s all you can really control if your body’s not up to it and it’s not your fault. But if your decisions are good, then you’ve got a good chance.”
Coetzee had to make his way back to South Africa after competing in the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship in Florida last week – and make it in time to a tournament which started on the Wednesday of the week, a day earlier than is usual.
“I felt like I played pretty solid the whole day,” he said. “There was nothing really exciting. I hit a couple of good shots that helped me make a couple of good birdies and an eagle, but otherwise it was just pretty solid golf.”
Coetzee started the week in fifth place in the Chase to the Investec Cup rankings after a year-long quest for points which started at last year’s Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open and finished at the Eye of Africa PGA Championship, and, should he maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard, he would finish in second place behind the man who can’t be caught, Dean Burmester.
To give him some assistance in that quest, he has a bit more local knowledge about the course, as he has a sponsorship from Investec and he gets to play at Millvale more often than most. “I’m hoping it gives me an advantage,” laughed Coetzee. “There are no guarantees, but I’m hoping to show up on each of the four days and then I’ll have a good chance.”
Burmester got it to four-under through 16, where he made eagle, but bogeys on 17 and 18 saw him slip back to two-under.