Coetzee hoping for improvement after slow road back from injury
Golfers and ‘extreme’ sports are rarely a good match as South Africa’s George Coetzee discovered last year.
The 30-year-old was one of the rising stars in the game by 2015 when he broke an ankle while surfing‚ which has seen his world-ranking plummet from a high of 41 to its current 151.
Coetzee will tee it up at the SA Open at Glendower Golf Club on Thursday marking the anniversary of his return to the game following his broken ankle. In the year that Coetzee has played since returning from injury‚ he has struggled.
Only two top 10 finishes in 25 tournaments was a poor return for a man who had won three European tour events prior to his setback‚ and someone who appeared to be on the cusp of making a huge breakthrough.
Breaking an ankle while surfing is unusual but Coetzee joined a growing list of players who have managed to suffer serious injuries away from the course.
Most infamously‚ from an SA perspective‚ was when Ernie Els tore knee ligaments while being towed in a rubber ‘donut’ behind a speedboat in 2005.
At the time Els was at the peak of his game and despite winning another major in 2012‚ he has perhaps never been the same since.
World number two and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy‚ who is the main attraction in the SA Open field‚ suffered ruptured ankle ligaments while playing football in 2015.
He was out for over six months. Former World number one Adam Scott also had a serious knee injury a few years back while running on the beach following a surf.
Ryder Cup players Paul Casey and Miguel Angel Jiminez suffered serious snowboarding and skiing accidents respectively.
Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oleson fell off a camel while on a break in Abu Dhabi and missed two months of play. Last year’s SA Open predictably saw Coetzee miss the cut after his long layoff.
Looking back Coetzee has few fond memories of his last SA Open experience.
“I think the fact that I played it last year with an ankle injury and it was my first tournament back‚ it was torture for me‚” he said. “Just walking the golf course was hard work and it was painful. Obviously there aren’t great memories from that with missing the cut as well.
"I’m better prepared‚ that I’m fit and strong and feeling good‚ that’ll be better for me to play this golf course.”
And while many of his peers are quick to sing the praises of Glendower Golf Club‚ Coetzee doesn’t feel quite as affectionate towards it.
“I’ve had a lot of chats about it over the holiday and I think my opinion differs from a lot of the other guys‚” he said. “It’s a really good golf course but‚ horses for courses. I prefer to play tracks where you don’t have to hit it around the corner the whole time.
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"Hopefully I’ll hit some good shots‚ play some good golf‚ but yeah it doesn’t really suit my game. Luckily my game is in pretty good nick. “Things are looking up. It’s just starting to just happen naturally and I’m not overthinking and doing things deliberately and on purpose‚” he said.
“It’s just flowing and I’m really happy with the way the swing looks.” So even though he’s not entirely comfortable around Glendower‚ and even though he had an anti-climactic end to 2016‚ he is cautiously optimistic about his chances in the BMW SA Open. “I wasn’t in contention a lot because of the injury and working on some stuff in my game last year‚” he said.
“It was a sacrifice I had to make and it’s kind of just a process of getting yourself back into contention enough to get comfortable with it and hopefully we can finish the job a couple of times this year.”
- TMG Digital