sport

Coetzee a champion at last

South Africa's George Coetzee ended his long wait for a European Tour title as he clinched a three-shot victory at the Joburg Open on Sunday.

Having amassed no fewer than 24 top-10 finishes on the European circuit, the 27-year-old from Pretoria finally broke his duck as he came from four shots back to emerge triumphant on home soil.

The win also earned Coetzee a spot at this season's Open Championship with the top three players without exemptions at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC securing an invite.

Coetzee will be joined at Hoylake by compatriot Justin Walters and Korea's Jin Jeong who finished in a tie for second alongside Tyrrell Hatton - the English youngster missing out on Open qualification due to his inferior world ranking.

England's Andy Sullivan shot a best-of-the-day 65 to finish in joint-fifth alongside countryman Matthew Baldwin (67), Spaniard Alvaro Quiros (66) and local favourite Thomas Aiken (74).

Aiken had a share of a two-shot overnight lead along with Walters, but both men lost momentum on the back nine to see their challenges fall away.

Coetzee played his way into contention with a faultless front nine that contained four birdies which came at the first, fourth, sixth and eighth holes.

At that point he was still a shot behind the final pairing of Aiken and Walters, but they would both drop a shot at the par-five eighth and when Coetzee made another gain at the tenth he moved into a lead he would never surrender.

Pressure

With a first win there for the taking, the pressure of the situation looked to be getting to the leader down the stretch and he enjoyed a huge slice of fortune when his drive at 15, which appeared destined for a hazard down the left - clattered into a tree and rebounded back out on to the fairway.

But he took full advantage as he put his approach to 20 feet before rolling home the birdie putt to put daylight between himself and the chasing pack.

With Jeong let down by a cold putter, Walters emerged as Coetzee's only realistic rival following a birdie at the short 16th.

However, having missed a difficult chance for another at 17, Walters needed an eagle down the last to force extra holes and never looked likely after finding a bunker with his drive.

In the end he could do no better than bogey to fall back into a tie for second, leaving a delighted Coetzee to reflect on a first success.

"I've been waiting a while and have actually been trying to play it down this week (winning)," he said afterwards. "I'm very happy."

He added with a smile: "I get to share this with my family and friends and my caddy. It was my mum's birthday yesterday and I wanted to win it for her because I forgot to get her a present."