George heads to Portugal on the upswing

If you had to ask George Coetzee what given him the most confidence ahead of the Portugal Masters, he’ll tell you it’s the 62 he shot at St Andrews on Sunday.

“Every kid dreams about it, it’s the home of golf,” said an elated Coetzee. “Every time I step up, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. I’ll play the course any way they let me, and obviously 62, I’m very happy.”

The 26-year-old has been quiet of late, slipping down the World Ranking over the last few months, during which he’s taken just one top-20. But when it came to crunch time during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Coetzee found that fifth gear he’s been missing.

It all clicked on Sunday, and the world witnessed just how good Coetzee is – he shot a record-equaling 62 at The Home of Golf, making old news of 63s by Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Simon Dyson. The 26-year-old joined Victor Dubuisson on the course record plaque – the Frenchman had shot 62 in benign conditions during the first round.

To say that Coetzee closed in style would be an understatement. After starting at the 10th he began the charge with birdies from 13 to 15. A par at 15 would deny the youngster what would have been a nine-birdie run.

“I had five birdies on the trot and I missed one – I think I lipped out one on 16 – and if that one had gone in it would have been nine on the trot. But it’s one of those days, you can always count the shots that you’ve left out there but all in all, I’m very happy with a 62,” he said.

And now for Portugal. This time last year Coetzee was also in a slump, but Oceanico Victoria Golf Course suited his eye. He shot a final-round 65 and capped-off a successful week with a tie for third place. It was his first top-10 in two months, and rekindled his season. A week later he finished sixth at the Castello Masters in Spain.

He’s matched the course record at St Andrews and is about to play a course he knows and likes. He’ll have all the confidence in the world, which means that Portugal might just witness the crowning of yet another South African champion.

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