Coetzee establishes narrow lead

9/16/2010 5:15:26 PM
George Coetzee  (Getty Images)
George Coetzee (Getty Images)
George Coetzee's seven under par 65 gave him a one shot lead after the first round of the Austrian GolfOpen presented by Botarin.

And the South African's efforts at Diamond Country Club could prove crucial in his bid to keep his European Tour card.

Currently 142nd on The Race to Dubai, Coetzee needs to move into the top 115 to retain playing privileges, and with eight birdies and a single dropped shot made the perfect start in Atzenbrugg, Austria.

"At this stage of the season I'm doing everything I can to make sure I'm still on Tour in 2011," said Coetzee.

"It's my first time playing in Austria but second time overall. I went skiing in January after my father told me to try it and it was incredible. I loved the place.

"I was very happy to come back here and play this tournament but to be honest I have to play every tournament I can right now to try and keep my card."

The 24 year old got off to a flyer with four consecutive birdies from the tenth, before adding another at the 16th.

His only bogey came at the 18th, but he atoned for that mistake with gains at the fourth and sixth before the Qualifying School graduate completed his scoring at the seventh with a tap-in birdie after his eagle putt brushed the lip.

"When the putter works it's easy to shoot scores like that," he said.

"I wouldn't say it was spectacular, I just putted very well and that gives me confidence."

Tied for second a shot further back on six under are Spain's José Manuel Lara - another fighting to keep his card - and Australian Terry Pilkadaris.

Two-time Asian Tour winner Pilkadaris was only three under with four to play, but after picking up a shot at the par five sixth, curled in a 15 footer at the next and chipped in at the par three ninth from the edge of the green.

Lara, the 2007 UBS Hong Kong Open winner, is 130th on The Race to Dubai but would probably climb into the all-important top 115 with a top-five finish this week.

The 33 year old had missed eight out of nine cuts before last week’s KLM Open, but a fourth placed finish in the Netherlands has reignited his self-belief.

"It's confidence, that's all,” he said. “I got some confidence from last week and now I'm hitting the ball okay and putting a lot better.

“I've been working really hard this year having missed a lot of cuts. I never go home at the weekend if I miss the cut - I stay and practise. That's maybe the key.

“Maybe things are starting to come good now thanks to all that practice. The game is not 100 per cent - I'm still missing some shots - but it's getting a lot better and my confidence is good."

Ireland's Damien McGrane sits fourth after a 67, with Argentina's Clodomiro Carranza, England's David Lynn, former Ryder Cup Swede Jarmo Sandelin and Spanish pair Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño and Javi Colomo a shot further back.

Two of Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup Team are in action this week - Graeme McDowell opened with a three under 69 and Miguel Angel Jiménez bogeyed his last two holes in a level par 72.

"I got off to a slow start by bogeying the second and third,” said US Open winner McDowell.

“The third could have been a lot worse as I hit an awful tee shot into the middle of a bush and made a great five. I hung tough the first eight holes - I was two over but easily could have been three, four, five over the way I played.

“The back nine here you can really make a score, though. It really is a tale of two nines, this golf course.

“Thankfully I birdied the tenth and 11th and that got me going. I could have made a lot of birdies on the way back in and it was nice to finish off with a birdie on the last.”