By Michael Vlismas
George Coetzee is heading into a pretty important weekend at only one stroke off the Joburg Open lead. But he’s less worried about it than he was a year ago. And he wasn’t too worried about it then.
That’s because Coetzee is becoming a master at biding his time and waiting for his chance of a victory on the European Tour. This approach is how he broke into the top 50 on the world rankings in 2012. And straying from it is what he feels cost him in a 2013 where he also battled injury.
“I’m trying not to force it. Last year I started forcing it a bit and my finishes got worse. This year it’s back to just playing golf and getting in contention on Sunday, and hopefully one of them will be a win,” he said after coming through 36 holes of the Joburg Open at 10 under par and one behind leaders Edoardo Molinari of Italy and Craig Lee of Scotland.
Coetzee posted a solid 68 on the tougher East Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Friday, matching the 68 of Molinari, who also played the East. Lee played the West and signed for a 67.
The field now faces two rounds on the East on the weekend, a course that will require the patience Coetzee has developed from knocking hard on the door of a maiden European Tour title and coming up just short.
“I feel like I’ve played well enough to win a couple of times, but the other guys just did a little bit more. It’s just a question of when it’s my week, when that long putt goes in on the second last hole or the last hole. It’s a matter of time,” he said earlier in the week.
His new coach, Doug Wood, believes that time will be soon as Coetzee is reaching a new level of understanding about his swing. “Things are moving faster than we’ve expected and I’m enjoying it,” Coetzee said.
He’s only dropped one shot in 36 holes this week, and he’s looking forward to a weekend where he doesn’t have to think too much about his swing.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m not too worried about my game. That’s nice, after the break and the injury.”
The injury was a broken wrist after he went over the handlebars of his bicycle last year. He’s sold the bicycle. But in the world of Coetzee, there is always an upside to everything. He was planning on taking six weeks off anyway. Then he got 10 weeks. “It was nice to take a holiday. I was going to take six weeks off and if I had to explain to everybody I was just tired it would’ve been difficult. But walking around with a cast on, I didn’t have to answer those questions. And the injury helped me understand my swing better.”
Now injury free, Coetzee is looking forward to this weekend. A big weekend, with a spot in the Open Championship possibly also in the picture if he finishes high enough in the top 10.
But he’s not too worried about what the next 36 holes hold in store.
“You just stay patient,” he said. “It’s going to be a grind, so you just stay patient.”