Coetzee steps up with third in Scottish Open

While defending Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was missing the cut in the John Deere Classic in the United States, George Coetzee produced a performance on a links course which will have him excited ahead of this week’s Open Championship.

His share of third behind world number one Luke Donald in the Barclays Scottish Open gave him the biggest payday of his European Tour career as he raked in €126,117.30 and 54 holes of confidence-building play ahead of the biggest week of his year at Royal St George’s.

The Pretoria Country Club professional came to his home course at the end of May in an attempt to rediscover the mojo which saw him win February’s Telkom PGA Championship after a lean European run.

While the plan didn’t work out perfectly, he came second by three strokes to winner Jean Hugo and went back to Europe with a renewed sense of purpose.

And he got into his stride quickly with an 11th-place finish in the BMW Italian Open and 12th in the St Omer Open before he showed he belonged on the big stage with a third place in the BMW International Open.

He stumbled in the second and third rounds of the French Open before finishing strongly for a share of 37th.

On a rain-soaked Castle Stuart layout – it was hit by landslides in the second round, and the tournament was shortened to 54 holes – he carded rounds of 66-69-67 to finish five behind a rampant Donald who now seems secure in his tenure at number one.

Behind Coetzee, Retief Goosen had another good week on the European Tour, suggesting he may be getting back to his consistent best: He closed with a six-under 66 for a share of 14th.

Ernie Els had three rounds in the 60s for the first time in a long time to finish in a tie for 25th, while Hennie Otto shared 42nd.

Coetzee overcame a horrible start with a double-bogey sixth on the first hole of the final round as he steadied the ship to turn in one-over 37, and then he lit the fuse: Six birdies on his homeward nine saw him climb from eighth into his share of third.

While he couldn’t match the superb finish by Donald, who carded a flawless 63, or that of runner-up Fredrik Andersson Hed, who eagled the 18th to ensure his sole possession of second with his 62, Coetzee certainly showed that he has the temperament to get a score on the board when the pressure is on.

His performance over the last six weeks has vaulted him to 37th in the 2011 Race to Dubai, and he will go to Sandwich for the Open with the kind of spring in his step which will make his performance there well worth watching.

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