George Coetzee qualified for the Open Championship when he won his maiden European Tour title in the Joburg Open in February, but he has already showed what he can do in the cauldron of a major championship on a links course when he finished 15th in the 2011 Open won by Darren Clarke.
“I thought about it coming down the stretch, but just had to play one shot at a time and lucky for me it worked out,” he said of the Joburg Open. The win was his fifth on the Sunshine Tour, but he had recorded more than 20 top 10 finishes in Europe and had been a runner-up three times. That included the 2011 Johnnie Walker Championship, where Thomas Bjorn beat him at the fifth extra hole. He would have been in a play-off at last year’s Qatar Masters as well but for Chris Wood’s closing eagle.
This will be his fourth consecutive appearance in the Open Championship: He missed the cut in 2012 when Ernie Els won, and was 71st last year. He goes into the tournament with a world ranking of 71st.
He is also on an upward curve in terms of his own game: He missed cuts in the BMW International Open in Cologne, and in Paris in the Alstom Open de France, but he kept things together in last week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open with rounds of 73-70-70-70 and a share of 41st.
If he can do what he does when he wins – in his own words, “Stay out of my own head” – he can get himself into contention.