George Coetzee heads into this weekÂs Joburg Open hoping that this tournament does exactly for him what itÂs done for Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace over the past few years.
Coetzee is edging closer to a maiden European Tour title following his second-place finish to Chris Wood in the recent Qatar Masters. It was his third top-10 this season, and the 21st of his career.
ÂI just want to keep playing well. IÂve been working on a few things and have been improving week after week. It just kind of hasnÂt been my week yet. But itÂs always nice to play in an event at home, and it would be awesome to win in front of my friends and family,Â Coetzee said.
And he heads to the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club having finished tied 14th and tied seventh in the last two years of the Joburg Open, and well aware of the Â1.3-million tournamentÂs ability to define a young playerÂs career.
SchwartzelÂs victory in this event in 2010 carried him to a then career high of 35th on the world rankings. A year later he won the Masters, finished tied ninth in the US Open and tied 12th in the PGA Championship, as well as successfully defending his Joburg Open title.
And in 2012, Grace arrived with a new European Tour card from qualifying school and re-launched his career with a win in this event, teeing off a season in which he would go on to win a further four times worldwide.
ÂHeÂs going to win sooner or later,Â Henrik Stenson said after he held off Coetzee down the stretch to win the South African Open last year.
The reality is that as one of a host of young South Africans making an impact worldwide, Coetzee may feel his turn has come.
South Africa currently has four players under the age of 30 within the top 50 on the world ranking, including Louis Oosthuizen (fifth), Schwartzel (18th), Grace (29th) and Coetzee (42nd).
And there are more South Africans than any other nationality ranked within the top 11 on the European TourÂs Race to Dubai, with Coetzee amongst the five of them.
Coetzee is certainly pleased to call this bunch of players his friends, especially as he prepares for a big few weeks on the road.
In February and March heÂll be playing in two World Golf Championship tournaments in the Accenture Match Play Championship this month and the Cadillac Championship the next. And heÂs preparing for the Masters in April.
ÂIÂm trying to get a few other invites into tournaments on the PGA Tour, so letÂs see. IÂll be staying with Branden and Louis in America, so IÂll pick their brains a lot. IÂm lucky to know guys like Louis, Branden and Charl whoÂve won so much,Â Coetzee said.
By Michael Vlismas