If relaxation were an indicator for success in golf, Wallie Coetsee would already have the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club in the bag after his two-under-par 68 saw him into a six-way share of the third round lead on Saturday.
He finds himself one stroke clear of Ockie Strydom and Erik van Rooyen in the Sunshine Tour event co-sanctioned with the European Tour, together with Scotland’s Craig Lee, England’s David Horsey, Adrian Otaegui of Spain and compatriots George Coetzee and Trevor Fisher Jnr.
“I’m heading out for my seventh braai in six days,” laughed Coetsee as he kept half an eye on the leaderboard in the media centre. “I’m having so much fun out there. I might have had too much fun when I was younger, but I love the pressure out there now.”
It was the old Coetsee story of accuracy again – perhaps not quite as accurate as his 26 fairways out of 28 in the opening two rounds – but he missed just four fairways in the third round, and one of those misses was by mere inches.
That accuracy meant that on a day where some of the halfway leaders battled to score – Merrick Bremner went six-over to slump to a share of 34th – Coetsee was hitting his approach shots either to the heart of the greens or close enough to have a chance to make birdie. He did that four times, and dropped a shot just twice.
Five players carded 66 on the par-70 layout, and one of them was Lee, who started the day five-under, six behind halfway leader Otaegui. The other two were Englishman Robert Rock, who climbed to five-under for the tournament, Swede Mikael Lundberg, Tjaart van der Walt and Eduardo de la Riva of Spain.
For Coetsee, the chance to be in contention so soon after his dream run at the Joburg Open is a chance to get something he craves badly: A European Tour card.
But he will have to deal with the threat posed by the likes of Coetzee, playing on his home course, and Fisher, who is fresh from a European Tour breakthrough of his own, and who dragged himself to a 69 in the third round after slumping to four-over after seven holes.
“The pressure is all on them,” he said. “There’s nothing on me. I’m exactly where I want to be. I like to be one or two behind, not like the Joburg Open where I was leading. Tomorrow I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ll go out and fire at it.
“There is a lot out there for me, I saved a lot in the bank. Tomorrow I’m going to withdraw and make a few birdies.”