HOYLAKE, England (AP) — George Coetzee tapped in a putt on the 15th green for a third straight birdie at the British Open and glanced up at the leaderboard.
His name was right at the top.
Not a bad way to celebrate his 28th birthday.
"It was quite a good feeling to look at my name and be at the top of the leaderboard," said Coetzee, who was playing in front of his girlfriend and mother at what has always been his favorite major.
But briefly taking a share of the second-round lead — at that stage, he was at 6 under with Rory McIlroy — proved to be his undoing on Friday.
The nerves kicked in, the drives went awry, the putts stopped dropping and Coetzee promptly bogeyed the next two holes. Pulling himself together, he rolled in a birdie from 4 feet at the par-5 No. 18 for a 3-under 69 and the clubhouse lead after the morning starters.
On 5 under overall, he finished the day tied for ninth — seven shots behind leader McIlroy.
"It's always going to be my birthday week (at the British Open)," the South African said. "It's nice to play well, obviously, in a very prestigious event. And to have my birthday coincide with it is also nice."
Like so many rising South African golfers, Coetzee cites compatriot Ernie Els as his idol.
Continue reading this story on the...