Coetzee hoping to hit the right spot at Leopard Creek

11/16/2011 3:16:36 PM
George Coetzee   (Getty Images)
George Coetzee (Getty Images)

George Coetzee is looking to land his maiden European Tour title on home soil at the Alfred Dunhill Championship as the South African pursues a share of The Race to Dubai bonus pool.

The 25 year old is currently €262,138 behind last week’s winner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño who at 15th in The Race to Dubai is currently the last player that would receive a share of the $7,500,000 end-of-season bonus.

“If I play well, which I am going to try and do, I think things will take care of themselves,” said Coetzee. “I’m not trying to focus on any one of those specific things, except on playing well.

“My focus is Dubai - but I tend to play well when I focus on an event, I play well in the build-up. When my focus was on The Open Championship, four or five weeks before the event, I started playing well. I think focusing on something other than what you are busy with always helps to take the pressure off.”

Coetzee sits 26th in The Race to Dubai after an impressive season that has contained seven top-ten finishes, although a first victory has so far eluded him.

He also has a chance to win the 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, where there are two events remaining – including this week’s co-sanctioned event at Leopard Creek.

“I’ve got three events left, and I’ll be looking to push hard in the next couple of weeks,” he said. “If I can sneak a win, it would be nice.

“I’m not going to try and make my golf take me somewhere. I’m just going to let my golf take me somewhere.”

Coetzee tees it up for the first two rounds alongside former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson and defending champion Pablo Martin, who is bidding for a hat-trick of titles after victories in 2009 and 2010.

Martin admits Leopard Creek, in Malelane, is among his favourite courses on The European Tour.

“I just think it’s a very good design overall,” said the Spaniard. “It’s definitely in the top three courses that we play all year on the European Tour, if not the best.

“There are so many shots out there that are good fun. There are a lot of shots where there’s drama. Everybody likes drama.”

Martin has certainly provided some of that drama in his last two triumphs. In the third round in 2009, he made an incredible par from the bridge on the 18th on his way to the lead.

The Spaniard hit a four wood for his second into the treacherous green – which is surrounded by water – and was lucky for it to finish on the bridge. He was able to chip from the cart path and went on to make a solid par.

Last year he produced more of that swashbuckling Spanish golf to win again.

“I’m not saying this because I won here, but if I had to play this course the rest of my life, it would be fun to play this game,” he said.

Englishman Robert Rock, who claimed his maiden European Tour victory in the BMW Italian Open in June, has also always performed well at Leopard Creek.

He has not finished outside the top 20 since 2006, and in the last three years he’s finished no worse than eighth.

“This is my favourite venue, apart from St Andrews,” said Rock. ”I always come here expecting to do well. Now that I’ve won a tournament, I feel like I can close the week out here.”