British Open: Brief birthday delight for Coetzee

AFP| Last Updated: Jul 18, 2014, 18:51 PM IST

Birthday boy George Coetzee had a brief glimpse at the leadership of the British Open on Friday but appeared to suffer a sudden bout of stage fright.

The big-hitter from Pretoria, celebrated his 28th birthday in style by blasting up the second round leaderboard from his 7:20am tee-off time.

An early bogey at the second was quickly neutralised and three birdies in a row from the 12th saw him at five under for the tournament, just one shy of the lead and with two reachable par-fives to come.

But he missed a three-footer for par at the 16th and hit a wayward drive at the next to leave overnight leader Rory McIlroy untroubled at the top.

A fine birdie at the last brought him in with a 69 and at five under for the tournament he was well set to challenge at the weekend.

Coetzee said that he was aware his name was appearing near the top of the leaderboard due to the many scoreboards that dot the Open course.

"I think it`s obvious I looked at it as soon as I was at the top because I made two birdies right after that," he said.

"But it was quite a good feeling to look at my name and be at the top of the leaderboard. Obviously six-under (by McIlroy) was a hell of a score yesterday.

"And I didn`t think it was doable today to get to that number, but when I made birdie on 13 I was like - well, all right, now I`m pretty close.

"I think I`m the top 10, and then the next one and the next one and I realised quite quickly."

It`s Coetzee`s fourth Open and it has been a long road for him to learn the arts of playing links courses, coming as he does from the plateau highlands of Pretoria.

"As a junior I wasn`t very good at the coast, because Pretoria is I think 4,600 feet above sea level and it`s more parklands golf courses," he said.

"Up until the age 16 I never broke 80 at the coast. Never mind playing in links, I couldn`t understand why the ball was going so short.

"But as the years went on I tried to kind of teach myself how to play at the coast, and one of my Sunshine Tours wins was on a links golf course.

"I enjoy playing links golf. There`s a lot more imagination and you can putt from anywhere."

South Africans have enjoyed great success in the Open over the last few years with Louis Oosthuizen winning at St Andrews in 2010 and Ernie Els at Royal Lytham two years later.