George Coetzee returns to tournament golf this week in the BMW Masters starting on Thursday in Shanghai, and he has a spot in the Masters in April next year firmly in his sights.
He broke a tiny bone in his right wrist in a cycling accident two months ago, and, while it came at the beginning of some planned down time, he’s thrilled to be back and to get his chase for a spot at Augusta National back on track.
“With a lot of world ranking points up for grabs, I really wanted to try and push to make the Masters next year,” said Coetzee of his appearance in the first tournament of the Europeans Tour’s Final Series which heralds the climax to the 2013 Race to Dubai.
“I’m not sure if I’d be back if this wasn’t the Final Series,” he said. “The purses are pretty good, and I really wanted to have a good finish to the year. That’s why I planned to take the six weeks off. In the end, I’ve only missed one event I had scheduled.
“I’m very excited to be back. I’ve learnt a couple of things, and I’m appreciating being out here a little more,” he added. “I couldn’t play the Dunhill Links – but I even went over just to spend time with the guys, and when I was there, I realised I really wanted to be back out here.”
The accident happened right at the beginning of his break, as he decided to add cycling to his daily regime in attempt to get fitter. “It actually happened on the first trip to the course!” he laughed “It was a good 15km, and it was just level road. I was almost there, and had to steer between a couple of posts and I saw I wasn’t going to make the turn so I started braking and the back wheel skidded on the gravel. I hit the front brakes, went onto the front wheel and didn’t fall over but it was kind of like slow motion and I knew it wasn’t going to end well.
“I broke the pisiform bone (where the forearm joins the wrist). Luckily, it’s the one you can break. It didn’t grow back as we wanted after the first six or seven weeks, but they say if it doesn’t go back properly, they can take it out and I can still play. It’s lucky, I guess. If I’d broken the bone on the other side of the hand, it would have been a 50-50 chance that I’d never play golf again.”
On the upside, the break now lets him know when he’s doing something wrong. “When I swing it badly, it hurts, so that’s a good thing, I guess, and I can punish myself for the bad swings,” he said.
He is one of seven South Africans in the field: The others are Louis Oosthuizen, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne, Thomas Aiken, Darren Fichardt and Garth Mulroy.