George CoetzeeÂs year on the European Tour just got better as he finished faster than anyone else in the Portugal Masters field at the weekend to take a share of third behind winner Tom Lewis.
Besides the Â110,000 cheque, which vaulted him to 26th spot on the Race to Dubai, rankings, one position ahead of his illustrious compatriot Louis Oosthuizen, he reconfirmed the growing consensus that he is a young player who will break through soon.
And he almost didnÂt get the chance to strut his stuff as he sneaked into the field for the weekend in a low-scoring tournament: ÂI putted absolutely horrendously the first two days,Â he said, Âand ended up finishing birdie, birdie and made a 15-footer on the last to make the cut on the number.Â
He carded 66 in the third round to move into a good position, and then his final-round 65 left him three shots off LewisÂ total in a share of third with Felipe Aguilar of Chile, FranceÂs Gregory Havret, David Lynn of England and Swede Christian Nilsson.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello was second, two strokes off LewisÂ 21-under-par.
After Hennie OttoÂs third round of 63, and James KingstonÂs 64 to lead the opening round, Coetzee was flying under the radar in a tournament that was god to South Africa.
ÂIÂve been chasing Hennie all the way,Â he said. ÂI know he shot a great score yesterday and obviously I was trying to play as well as I can and try to catch up with all of the South Africans who were ahead of me this week.Â
In the end, he led the Sunshine Tour challenge, with Kingston sharing 11th, Otto 16th, Thomas Aiken 23rd and Keith Horne 29th.
Lewis produced a magnificent final round 65 to win on only his third professional outing. The 20-year-old Englishman shot to fame with his opening 65 at Sandwich this year, which was the lowest ever round by an amateur in the Open Championship and gave him a share of the lead.
Coetzee also had a good Open Championship, finishing 15th, and the third place in Portugal has cemented his reputation as a future star.
ÂI was slipping outside of the top hundred in the world and hopefully this finish will get me back inside,Â he said. He jumped to 96th Â the eighth South African in the top 100.