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Golf | SA

George Coetzee © Gallo Images

Coetzee headed for Augusta



After pushing Henrik Stenson all the way in the South African Open last month, George Coetzee might be inclined to feel as though his year has petered out somewhat.

He followed it up with a satisfactory tied-26th finish at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, and then could only manage a finish in a tie for 39th at the Nelson Mandela Championship last week.

He still came into this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship with a realistic chance of clinching the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit title for 2012, but rounds of 71, 70 and 73 in on the first three days ultimately put him out of contention.

However, a scorching round of 65 earlier today looks as though it will be enough to earn him a top-10 finish.

Far more significantly, it means that the burly Coetzee will retain his place in the top 50 in the world rankings and earn a place in the 2013 Masters field at Augusta.

“The weather is not particularly great today, and the wind is blowing a little bit and swirling. I’m happy to get the round over and done with, and the holidays started. I think I needed a good round to get into The Masters for next year, and hopefully this will seal the deal,” the 26 year-old Coetzee said.

“It’s been tough. Last week I could feel that The Masters was making me play a bit rubbish, because it puts a bit of pressure on you. After three days of scrapping around – playing absolutely great and just not making everything and having no patience – things got together.

“It was the same kind of round as I’ve had every other day, except that I waited a bit more for the putts. Luckily today they came,” he added.

Of course, for an ambitious talent like Coetzee, a debut at the Masters doesn’t signify reaching the ultimate goal, and the man from Pretoria has his sights set on far dizzier heights than simply catching a plane to Georgia and going through the motions.

“I don’t just dream of playing. My dream has never been just to play in The Masters. I know a couple of guys say that all they want to do in their life is play all four majors. That’s not the job description – I want to play in those majors and I want to win all of them. It’s great to have the opportunity. As they say in poker: if you have a chip and a chair, you never know,” a confident Coetzee noted.

The occasion will nonetheless be a momentous one for Coetzee, and the history and prestige is not lost on him after following the showpiece so closely throughout his life.

“It’s Augusta. It’s the one major with a limited field. It’s the best in the world. I’ve watched it as a kid, and I hate Phil Mickelson for beating Ernie (Els) that one year when he holed that putt and jumped like a baboon. It’s got so much history and I’m sure it’s going to be an unbelievable experience,” he said.

Through various means, Coetzee has studied the course intensely, and although he knows his natural left-to-right ball flight isn’t ideally suited to the iconic layout, he believes he has the solution that will make him competitive come April.

“A draw is what I think about it (Augusta). I’ve played it on Playstation and I know you’ve got to hit a couple of draws around there. That’s not my strong suit, but I am going to try to play my own game when I get there.

“I’m playing so nicely that there are always shots left out there. I’m going to take a nice long break there and as soon as the new year starts I’ll be working on my short game and getting it ready. I don’t really have to go and work on my draw that much for Augusta, I just have to make sure I’m the best chipper and putter that there is!” Coetzee concluded jovially.

Having already achieved so much in his short career, and making a fine impression in 2012, Coetzee will have no reason to feel out of his depth when the 80th edition of the event gets under way at the Bobby Jones-designed course.

His calm demeanour will likely prevent him from being over-awed, and, with a bit of luck and the deadly short game he alluded to, he might just be the third South African to don the famous green jacket in five years.

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