George Coetzee coasted through his first 13 holes during round one of the WGC-HSBC Champions on Thursday, then went on a triple-birdie run to join a tie for 14th place.
The three-time European Tour winner features on the cover of Compleat Golfer’s November edition, but on Thursday at Sheshan International Golf Club his golf did the talking.
Coetzee took advantage of the soft condition of the course, which has received plenty of rain through the last four days. Coming home with three birdies in the final four holes will be a huge confidence booster, but he’s been up against the best many times before. He’s played all four majors, finished 15th at The Open in 2011, and was seventh at the PGA Championship last year.
Leading the way was Rikard Karlberg, who ripped up the soft Chinese course in an eight-under-par 64 to move one stroke clear of crowd-favourite Rickie Fowler.
America’s Daniel Berger, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and defending champ Russell Knox were tied for third on six under par.
Dean Burmester led the South African contingent with his share of ninth place on four under par, having carded a 68 that included a bogey-free back nine in his WGC debut.
‘I was standing on the 16th tee and watched Rory McIlroy hit a three-wood fade on to the green,’ he said. ‘I don’t have that in my armoury, so it does level you a little bit! At the same time I shot four under today and that proves I can play well to win these places. Hopefully more of these rounds in the future.’
‘Every golfer aspires to play in these tournaments and the majors,’ Burmester added. ‘So I’m really humbled, blessed, and happy to be here. Looking forward to the rest.’
‘The Burminator’ added five birdies on the back side to join the top 10.
‘I didn’t have the greatest start, but I’m really happy with the way I finished. I had a great back nine, very pleased with 31. Hopefully it rolls into tomorrow and the rest of the week.
‘I was a bit nervous, this is my first WGC event, so off the first tee I made a quick double bogey before I even knew it. But I had 25 putts today and some nice lies in the rough, so I’m really happy with four under.’
Compleat Golfer’s playing editor Louis Oosthuizen was tied for 24th on one under par, Charl Schwartzel tied for 34th on level par and Branden Grace tied for 48th on one over par.
Jacques Blaauw and Richard Sterne struggled on Thursday and carded 76 and 77, respectively.