Coetzee triumphs in Telkom PGA

George Coetzee was put on the clock at the Telkom PGA Championship, but it didn’t stop him marching to victory

George Coetzee had to keep his eye on his watch on Sunday after being put on the clock in the final round of the Telkom PGA Championship at Country Club Johannesburg, but it didn’t stop him marching to a two-shot victory.

He finished with a 27-under-par 261 total after firing a closing eight-under-par 64 to edge out Neil Schietekat by two shots.

Brandon Grace, the man with whom he had tussled all week, slipped back into a share of third with a fast-finishing Garth Mulroy two shots further back.

It wasn’t until the trio were put on the clock at the 14th that the challenge presented by Grace began to fade.

“It was unfortunate.” said Coetzee. “Gracie was very aware of it, and started rushing his shots. I knew it would make a difference, and I tried to make sure it didn’t. I tried to tell myself that I am a quick player and had nothing to worry about it.”

Grace pushed his drive on 14 into the trees, and, in an incredibly lucky break, it ricocheted off a trunk on to the left side of the fairway.

He was unable to convert his good fortune into a birdie, but his game fell to pieces on the next two holes: He made consecutive bogeys, while Coetzee, who had birdied 14, was safely down in pars on both.

The stocky 24-year-old from Pretoria then put his foot on the pedal and birdied the final two holes to underline the form he had showed all week as he surged home to victory.

There have been times recently when Coetzee has doubted his ability to win, but he worked hard at dealing with that: “I kept telling myself that if I hit some bad shots I was good enough to recover from them.”

And recover he did.

He dropped just four shots throughout the tournament, the last of which came on the second hole of his final round. After that, he made nine birdies in a ding-dong battle with Schietekat and Grace.

“I don’t think there are a lot of people who have hit more balls than me over the last two years,” said Coetzee, who last won on the Sunshine Tour in 2008, “but I am very glad it’s finally paid off, because while you’re battling, the question is always whether you’ll get out of the rut.”

The other important part of getting out of the rut was doing the right thing under pressure.

“I tend to try and fire at flags all day long,” he said, “Johann Rupert told me at last week’s tournament to be a little less aggressive when things got tough, and I did that a lot,” he said.