Coetzee Leads in South Africa; Van Rooyen Tied for 4th
March 3, 2018
WATERKLOOF, South Africa -- George Coetzee is putting his home course advantage to good use so far this week at Pretoria Country Club in the Tshwane Open.
Pretoria is Coetzee's home course, and the 31-year-old South African has played it in 14 under par through the first three rounds. He gave a stroke back at the end of his round Saturday when he bogeyed the 514-yard, par-5 18th hole. But he was still able to post a 3-under 68 and a 54-hole total of 199.
Coetzee has three victories on the European Tour, including one at this tournament in 2015.
He is two strokes clear of the field going into the final round. For the insomniacs and early risers in the audience, coverage of the final round will begin Sunday morning at 4 o'clock Central Time on the Golf Channel.
Sam Horsfield, a 21-year-old from England who earned his way onto the European Tour by winning the Final Stage of Q-School by eight shots last fall, shot the day's best score on Saturday, a 64, and that has him tied with Mikko Korhonen of Finland for second place at 201. Korhonen arrived at the same number by way of a 69.
The Minnesota connection here is Erik Van Rooyen, a South Afriican who played for the University of Minnesota. He is tied for fourth, four behind at 203.
Van Rooyen won the MGA State Amateur at Hastings CC in 2012, between his junior and senior seasons with the Gophers. He turned pro the following year, right after playing in an NCAA regional, and didn't defend his State Am title that summer. But he was back in the Twin Cities in 2016 and pretty much crushed the par-5's -- and the field -- while winning the Tapemark Charity Pro-Am. He was 3 over par after his first nine holes at Southview CC that weekend, then played the last 45 holes in 16 under. He was 10 under on the par-5's during that stretch, and won by five.
On Saturday, Van Rooyen, went birdie-bogey-birdie on the second, third and fourth holes and completed the outward half in 1 under. He was still there after 11 tholes, but the long-hitting 28-year-old (he is No. 3 on the European Tour's list of longest drivers, with an average of 321.6 yards per drive), birdied the 633-yard, par-5 12th, the 361-yard, par-4 17th and the par-5 18th to shoot 67. He's tied with Felipe Aguilar, who turned in a 71 on Day 3, and Scott Jamieson and Thomas Aiken, both of whom shot 67.
Van Rooyen has spent most of his time since graduating from the U playing on the Sunshine (South African) Tour. He was getting into four or five European Tour events each year -- he got into them by virtue of the fact that they were co-sponsored the European and Sunshine tours -- but he decided to go full-time on the European Challenge Tour last year and ended the season No. 3 on that money list. As a ressult, he is now a regular on the European Tour for its 2017-18 season. And so far, so good.
In December, Van Rooyen finished second in Joburg Open, also in South Africa. Mainly as a result of that, he popped up into the top 10 on the European Tour Order of Merit (money list), although he has played in only one tournament since then and has slipped back into 29th place.
The winner of the Joburg Open, incidentally, was Shubhankar Sharma, the 21-year-old from India who leads the European Order of Merit -- and who came into this weekend leading the first World Golf Championship tournament of 2018, the Mexico Championship.
At Pretoria Country Club
Par 71, 7,081 yards
Waterkloof, South Africa
1. George Coetzee 67-64-68--199
T2. Mikko Korhonen 68-64-69--201
T2. Sam Horsfield 68-69-64--201
T4. Erik Van Rooyen 68-68-67--203
T4. Felipe Aguilar 65-67-71--203
T4. Scott Jamieson 67-69-67--203
T4. Thomas Aiken 65-71-67--203