Playing on the course where he began his competitive career as a 10-year-old, South Africa’s George Coetzee won the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club by a single shot from his countryman Jacques Blaauw.
Coetzee shared the lead with five others through 54-holes of the competition, but it was a player from much further down the leaderboard who emerged as the early front-runner.
Jacques Blaauw blistered around the historic Pretoria layout in a course-record equalling 61. The 29-year-old carded nine pars and nine birdies as he posted a clubhouse total of 13-under-par.
“It was fun out there, everything went in!” Blauuw said.
Of the third round leaders, only Coetzee was able to handle the pressure applied by Blaauw’s incredible round. The 28-year-old carded an error-free 65 to win by a single shot, in front of galleries including many of his friends and family.
“The crowds were amazing,” he said. “I think I’ve got this course down after 18 years of playing golf here! I think it played to my advantage, knowing when to be aggressive and when not to.”
Four things we learned at the Tshwane Open:
1. This was a second European Tour title for George Coetzee, after the Joburg Open of 2014. For a number of seasons, Coetzee had the label of a perennial nearly-man. From 2010 to 2014, he posted 24 top-10 finishes on the European Tour without recording a victory. The talented youngster now has two titles, both earned in South Africa. The next step is to win one outside his home country. With this win, Coetzee earned €237,000 and climbed to 67th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
2. Jacques Blaauw has been a steady competitor on the South African Sunshine Tour since turning professional in 2008. But this was a breakthrough performance for the 29-year-old on the European Tour circuit and it saw him pick up his largest ever cheque, for €172,500. From the co-sanctioned events he’s played in so far in 2015, Blaauw has collected €212,817 counting towards the European Tour money list. In 2014, players who earned more than €235,000 gained playing rights for 2015. If Blaauw could secure an invite or two through the remainder of the season, he could reach that magic total.
3. Craig Lee of Scotland (one of the 54-hole leaders) was still within one stroke of the lead with just five holes to play. But he bogeyed the 15th and double bogeyed the last to drop back into a tie for third with Dean Burmester and Tjaart van der Walt, both of South Africa. Lee is one of golf’s late bloomers. Now aged 38, he turned pro way back in 1996 but didn’t make it onto the European Tour until 2008, and didn’t successfully retain his card until 2013.
4. Darren Clarke is making progress in his bid to re-find his playing form. The 2016 European Ryder Cup captain posted four solid rounds to finish on a total of five-under-par, in a tie for 15th place. That might not sound like much, but it was the Northern Irishman’s best finish on the European Tour since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship of 2013, and it was only his second top-15 result on the circuit since he won The Open Championship in 2011.