Johannesburg - He won the Joburg Open in 2014, and George Coetzee would be quite happy to see a South African win the 10th edition of the tournament which gets underway at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Thursday.
Locals have taken seven of the nine tournaments played so far, with only Ariel Canete of Argentina, who won the inaugural version in 2007, and 2015 champion Andy Sullivan spoiling the hosts’ record in it.
The 72-hole stroke play event sees each of the 210 players in the field play a round on each of the East and West courses at Royal, with the final 36 being played on the East Course.
With Coetzee the last South African to win it, his thoughts
on what makes the tournament so attractive to locals were instructive. “I think
it’s preparation. It’s not really a golf course the foreign guys get to see too
often - and then it’s a tournament on two courses too,” he told the Sunshine Tour website.
“The overseas guys come here and do their two practice rounds and they’re tired. I mean, I don’t even play the West Course any more. I can’t remember the last time I played a practice round on the West Course. But I think South Africans know the course, but maybe it’s also the texture of the grass. It’s not something the Europeans are used to or enjoy really, because it’s a different texture and it’s quite hard to chip off and hit some shots out of it. I think we’re just used to it.
”We’ve played a lot of amateur golf here and the guys who’ve made it through the ranks have got a bit of a head start here. Hopefully the local dominance continues, and there’s a spot inside the top 10 for me this week,” he added.
Coetzee has been off for some time with a broken ankle sustained in a surfing accident, of all things. His return to tournament golf in last week’s SA Open Championship was not too inspiring, but he’s hoping that things are on the up for him.
“I’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up with these guys playing out here now, but I’m working on some good stuff and I’m excited about the game,” he said. “It’s just a question of when do we get there.”
And if his game is good, Coetzee, unlike the visitors to Royal, is comfortable with what he needs to do around the place.
“When you win a tournament, you can finally say ‘I’ve got my game plan down for this golf course.’ So the homework for this golf course isn’t that much - just the preparations in terms of the game itself - playing, hitting good shots.
“But at least when I come to this course I know what club to hit on each tee box, so there’s not too much thinking - just playing.”