Joburg Open. George Grabs His First Title

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George Coetzee grabs his first title by winning the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

George Coetzee celebrates with the trophy after winning the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

George Coetzee and first Trophy/ Getty Images

George put together a final flawless round of -6 under par 66, for a tournament total of -19 under par, a comfortable three shot victory on the East Course.

This was his 107th attempt at victory, and said he was lost for words;

“ I’m ecstatic, I don’t know what I’m feeling , I’m lost for words. I’ve been waiting a while and I started doubting, so I’m very happy. I got to share this with my family and my friends. It was my mum’s birthday yesterday and I wanted to do it for her as I forgot to buy her a present!” 

As I remarked yesterday sometimes Lady Luck lends a hand at winning a tournament, George had his slice of luck;

“You need a little bit of luck to win these things. On fifteen I pulled my driver and that was the decider, because it should have gone into the water but instead it hit a tree and bounced back into the fairway. You always have this plan in mind for yourself when you’re coming down the stretch and it never goes the way you think it will. I’m very happy to have finished the job,” 

George also wins one of three places at The Open Championship, which were offered up as part of the new Open Qualifying Series that was incorporated into the Joburg Open.

Tied in second place, at -16 under par were  Justin Walters, Jin Jeong,  and  Tyrrell Hatton, who was unfortunately edged out of a place at The Open, based on world ranking.

Tyrrell was naturally disappointed to come so close;

“Beginning of the week if you gave me second place I would have put my feet up and taken it, but given the situation I’m a little disappointed. It’s bittersweet, though, because I’ve earned a place at The Open and that’s the major we’ve all dreamed of playing in since we were kids.”

Joburg Open. Edoardo Molinari & Craig Lee Share the Lead

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Edoardo Molinari and Craig Lee share the lead of the Joburg Open at  Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.

Edoardo Molinari  (Getty Images)

Edoardo Molinari / Getty Images

Edoardo feels his game is in a good place as he continues his return to form by claiming a share of the Lead at the Joburg Open with a second round -4 under par 68 on the tougher East Course, for a total of -11 under par;

“It was another very good round of golf, and I hit the ball very well, maybe not as well as yesterday, but I gave myself a lot of chances, which is what you have to do around the East Course. I am very pleased with four under today. You just have to play your best. There are a few less birdie chances on the East Course, but all of the par fives are reachable, so you can make a good score.”

“I think I drove the ball really well. I’ve been driving the ball like that for the last few months and it’s making a big difference, because I am hitting a couple of clubs less than I am used to and most times I am on the fairway. It’s still two rounds to go, but I like the way I am hitting the ball. I made a few putts today, but the most important thing is to keep hitting the ball like this. I’m very happy with pretty much everything. I am very happy with my position and my game right now.”

Craig shot a -4 under par on the easier West Course to also get to -11 under par, and stay at the top of the leaderboard;

“The goal was to not fall back and there’s a strong field behind you, so it was important that I didn’t slip back. I had a pretty good chance early on to distance myself from the rest of the field, but I didn’t really capitalise on the back nine.”

 David Horsey -8 under par 63 on the West Course and the home town favorite George Coetzee -4 under par on the East Course, share third place, both just one shot back at -10 under par for the tournament.

David enjoyed the conditions and the easier course, he also mentioned this new qualifying system for The Open;

 “The conditions were a bit breezier than yesterday, but they were made for scoring out there today. I’m very pleased with the day’s work. I was a little bit more aggressive, but I made a whole lot of putts and that was it, hey presto!

“It’s an added bonus, I think it’s a good system, a good change from the R&A to do that. It makes the qualifying a bit fairer and spreads it out over a longer period rather than making it a 36-hole sprint. It’s at the back of my mind at the moment, but it’s certainly a bonus to consider near the end of the week.”

George knows the East Course and knows what to expect;

“I know what to expect and tomorrow I’ll try to stay patient and make a few putts on the way home.”

 The whole field have now played both courses during the first two rounds, and will now revert to the more demanding East Course for the conclusion of the tournament at the weekend.

Joburg Open. Four Tied at the Top.

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Craig Lee is tied at the top of the leaderboard with three other players at the conclusion of the first round of the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club in South Africa.

Craig Lee  (Getty Images)

Craig Lee / Getty Images

Craig Lee is hoping to be in line for a maiden Major Championship appearance at this year’s The Open, as he looks to improve his record in South Africa after making a superb start to the Joburg Open, scoring -7 under par 65 on the longer East Course.

 Alastair Forsyth, Edoardo Molinari and Justin Walters all carded opening rounds of -7 under par 65 on the West Course to be sharing the top spot on the leaderboard at the Joburg Open.

Craig mentioned the chance to play at The Open;

“I’ve played really nice golf for that, so I’m delighted with the score that I’ve managed to put together. I hit a lot of shots in to about 15 feet today and I didn’t hole that many of those putts, but then on the back I managed to knock in a few putts, so a game of two nines today. It’s really hard to figure out where you are in the field with two golf courses, and with the East being slightly tougher I feel like I’m in a good position. If we can keep the same level of golf then we might be able to separate ourselves from the bunch.”

“I don’t normally play well at all in South Africa, my record here is actually pretty pathetic. It’s probably a course that should have suited me in the past, because my strength has always been ball striking. I’ve never played that great around here, but my game has gotten slightly better over the years. You don’t really change your strategy, but it’s a great reward for three lucky guys who’ll get a chance to play in The Open. It’s nice to have qualifiers throughout the year and not just geared up to that 36-hole sprint that most qualifiers are. Hopefully we can keep the game up and take one of those spots.”

Justin said he may not go to The Open, even if he qualifies;

“My girlfriend is pregnant, 16 weeks, so the baby is supposed to arrive around the British Open. Going into the year when I heard that this was one of the qualifying events I really felt a sense of irony. Finally qualifying for an event I’ve wanted to play for my whole life, I can see the irony of maybe having to pull out if the baby is arriving.”

Alastair played as good as he has done in a while;

“The front nine was probably as good as I’ve played in a long time. I seemed to do everything right on the front nine, but I struggled a little on the back, where I ended up between clubs a few times. No dropped shots and seven birdies, so I’m never going to complain with that.”

This Open qualifying series is going to be exciting to watch, and this field is certainly bunched up after the first round.

Joburg Open, Super Sterne Wins.

Stunning Sterne back on top

Richard Sterne / Getty Images.

Richard Sterne won the Joburg Open with a super last round 64 on the East Course at  Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club on Sunday. His final tournament total of -27 under par, a record for this event, was an amazing seven shots ahead of second placed Charl Schwartzel. Richard’s recent woes with injury are now well behind him, although even he did not expect to be away from the game for nearly two years;

” I didn’t think I was going to be out for so long, but six months became a year and then almost two.  After all the hard work and the time out with injury, I did think whether I was ever going to win again. At one point the pain was so bad that I even wondered if I’d ever play golf again. But now I know I can. The only thing that kept me going was all the other South Africans, they kept winning a lot of events and I believed that if they could do it then I could.”

Richard is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to drop just one shot in a 72 hole European Tour event, he now leads the Race To Dubai and will definitely be in the top 60 when the Official World Golf Rankings are updated on Monday. Only the top 50 players qualify automatically for Major Championships,  a huge incentive for Richard, who admits the Majors is where he wants to be;

” I’d like to get back into all the Majors, that’s where I want to be playing. It’s a big year,  I’ve got off to such a nice start so hopefully I can keep it going. I played really good golf today and the whole week really,  that was probably the best final round of my career. It was quite special to finish the way I did.”

Charl Schwartzel’s 66 left him one better off than  Chilean Felipe Aguilar, George Coetzee and Ricardo Santos, who matched the victor’s final round of 64. Sadly Trevor Fisher Jnr had a final round of  73, which left him tied in sixth place, alongside Keith Horne and Thomas Aiken on -18 under par for the tournament.

Joburg Open. Sterne & Fisher to Contest Final Round

Trevor Fisher Junior  (Getty Images)

Trevor Fisher Jnr / Getty Images

The final round of the Joburg Open will be contested between Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Jnr, after their fantastic third round scores elevated them to a five point lead over the field. Both players shot rounds of -4 under par, 68, on the tough East Course to separate themselves from the chasing pack at the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club.

Trevor Fisher Jnr admitted to some nerves out on the course;

” A bit of nerves set in there, you try not to think about the lead, but it’s there in front of you. I was a bit jumpy with the swing and wasn’t waiting at the top, so I hit a few bad shots there. But I came back nicely with a few birdies. It’s just a feeling, and you’ve got to try and feel comfortable out there as much as possible. My last three or four years have been good on the Sunshine Tour. But I need to get to the next level now. It’s been good for me in terms of the stepping stones I’ve taken in the last 10 years. But I’ve stepped on a lot of stones,  I need to get to the top now.”

Charl Schwartzel is one of four players tied in third spot, five shots adrift of the leaders, but he thinks there is still a chance of a win;

” My game is not bad, but it can be a lot better. A bunch of putts didn’t go in, so I hope that clicks tomorrow. If I can go out and get to twenty-something under, then I’ll have a chance.”

Felipe Agular of Chile remains the only player from outside South Africa who has a slim chance to win, he is alongside Jaco Van Zyl and George Coetzee  at -14 under par, and will be five strokes behind at the start of play in the last round.

Joburg Open. It’s Still Sterne.

Richard Sterne   (Getty Images)

Richard Sterne / Getty Images

Richard Sterne still leads at the halfway stage of the Joburg Open, a European Tour event, after a -7 under par round 65 on the tougher East Course  saw him join compatriot Trevor Fisher Junior at the top of the leaderboard at -15 under par.

Richard knows there is a long way to go, but is happy he is not behind and having to chase;

” I did the right things and putted well, it’s nice to not be behind going into the weekend. It won’t be easy on the weekend, the players that are five or six back can catch us as well. Charl’s there, George is due a win, so it’s a long way from over.”

Trevor Fisher Jnr, named Player of the Year on the Sunshine Tour, shot a round of 62 on the West Course, with seven birdies and an eagle on his card, to go with his opening round on the East Course of 66, for his -15 under par total.

Trevor was happy with his good round;

” It was a great day out there, everything just happened for me and I sank the putts I needed to sink. I was happy and patient with myself, walked slow and did everything slow and it was just a good day.”

George Coetzee had a good day and came within a shot of two-time winner Charl Schwartzel’s course record, but at -12 under par for the tournament is still three back of the leaders.

It is all South Africans at the top of the leaderboard, nearest foreign player is Felipe Aguilar from Chile, who is in a tie for fourth place at -10 under par.

Yesterdays first round tied leader, German Maximilian Kieffer, could only manage a par round on the more difficult East Course, and is now back tied for 11th place.

Joburg Open, 1st Round. Sterne and Kieffer Lead.

Richard Sterne   (Getty Images)

Richard Sterne / Getty Images

Richard Sterne and Maximilian Kieffer lead the Joburg Open with fabulous first rounds of -8 under par of 63 on Royal Johannesburg & Kensington’s par 71 West Course. Both players now face three rounds on the tougher par 72 East Course, but Richard knows this course pretty well, the South African had a victory here in 2008, the five-time European Tour winner said:

” I had three good rounds around the East Course that year. If I can do that now I’ll have a chance on Sunday.”

Richard suffers from a dodgy back, which held him back during the last two years, he said he never knows when its going to be good;

” Some days it feels good and everything kind of happens, golf is strange, you’ve got to hit the right kind of shots at the right time. I hit 17 greens today, so I was never really in trouble at all.”

Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer continued the impressive start he has made to his rookie year campaign, having already finished tied for fourth in Durban and tied for 17th in Dubai. Maximilian said he enjoyed his great first round here;

” When you come from the Challenge Tour everyone says that you have enough to play out here, but you still want to prove it. It’s a new world and you don’t really know what to expect, so I’m happy that it went pretty good so far. That round was great,  I’ve been playing well the last few weeks and I just tried to stay positive on the golf course, and luckily today was another good round.”

Bryce Easton of South Africa, had a hole-in-one on his way to posting the best round on the tougher East Course, a 65, which gave him third place on -7  under par. Speaking about his hole in one, Bryce said;

” It’s one of those things, you don’t think about it when you’re playing the hole, but when it goes in it takes a couple of seconds to realise that it’s actually disappeared.”

The defending champion Branden Grace, and two-time winner Charl Schwartzel also played on the East Course on day one, but while former Masters Tournament winner Charl opened with a four under 68, Branden could only produce a level par 72.