Coetzee on the comeback trail at Joburg Open

2016 Joburg Open: Day 1Former Joburg Open champion George Coetzee walked off the East Course’s 18th green after a closing birdie at the East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Sunday and signed his card for what for him was an extremely satisfying 67.

“I’ll happily take five-under-par today,” Coetzee said as he sat down beside the Joburg Open ‘player autograph facility and stretched his weary legs.

“That’s the first time I’ve played four straight rounds since the accident and although I’m a little sore I managed okay and, for sure, I played quite well,” said the 29-year-old.

Coetzee jumped off a surfboard in Bali early in September last year and broke his left fibula, bringing to an end a terrific season on the fairways of the world which included two European Tour wins in the Tshwane and Mauritius Opens.

In last week’s BMW South African Open in Glendower – his first tournament back since the accident – the Pretoria Country Club professional missed the cut.

“The leg was stiffening up quite badly there,” he said.

“I hit some poor shots and I couldn’t get going. But this week it hasn’t been so bad and to play well so early after coming back was encouraging.”

Coetzee posted rounds of 72, 67, 70 and 67 for an 11-under-par aggregate in a tournament where the first two rounds alternate between the par-72 East and par-71 West courses and the final two rounds are contested on the East.

“My goal was to get to double figures and it’s good to know that I did. I feel like I can play again so it’s full steam ahead from now on.”

Coetzee will challenge in the European Tour’s ‘Desert Swing’ – the Abu Dhabi Championship, the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Classic – before returning to South Africa to take up his title defence in the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club.

“The aim is to try and get back to peak form by the Tshwane Open,” said Coetzee, who lifted the Joburg Open title in 2014 for his European Tour breakthrough.

Coetzee said the highlights in his final round on Sunday was an eagle at the par-five first, courtesy of a drive down the middle, a splendid five-iron to the heart of the green and a 15-foot putt which found the back of the cup, and a birdie at the par-five closing hole.

“I was up in two at 18 with a drive and a four-iron followed by two putts, so I started well and finished well today,” he said.

“It’s been a frustrating four months away from the game but it looks like, finally, I’m now back.”


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