It would be fair to say that it will be some time before George Coetzee forgets his 28th birthday.
When the South African awoke at just after 5.00 this morning he was tied for 19th place in The Open but five hours later he briefly shared the lead in the Championship and in the end finished one shot off the pace.
Coetzee carded two opening rounds of 69 on his Major debut at the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St George’s but this represented uncharted territory for a man who has missed the cut and finished tied-71st in his last two Open starts.
It was also hugely impressive because Coetzee was storming up the leaderboard at a time when most of the other morning competitors were struggling to handle wind gusts up to 25 miles an hour.
The first indication the South African might trouble the leaders came at the 528-yard par-5 5th where he chipped to 10-feet and holed for a birdie. He was also to pick up shots at the 10th, 13th, 14th and 15th to tie Rory McIlroy at six under before bogeys at the 16th and 17th and another birdie on the 18th saw him post a three under par 69 for a five under par total of 139.
“This is my favourite Major so it’s nice to play well,” said the soft-spoken South African who qualified for The Open by winning the Open Qualifying Series event at the Joburg Open and is here at Hoylake with his girlfriend Carli-Jeanne Pohl and several family members.
“It was a cool feeling to see my name on the top of the leaderboard. You know you’re in contention and it shouldn’t affect the way you play but maybe there was a little bit of nerves involved with (missing) the second putt on 16.
“But I’m not too disappointed (to have dropped shots on 16 and 17). Those things happen when you’re leading and when you’re missing a cut.
“It’s great to play well in a prestigious event like this and to have my birthday coincide with it is also nice.