Stewart Cink Rolls Back the Years to Win Again on PGA Tour
George Coetzee won his fifth European Tour title - but his first on European soil - with a two-shot victory in the Portugal Masters. And he owed it all to a wonderful short game.
His previous European Tour wins have all come in South Africa and he said: "Winning in Europe was the next step for me really. I have always had a list of things I wanted to achieve in my career as a golfer and originally I never thought I would get as far as winning on the European Tour, so ticking that box a while back was really nice, and then I started to realise that I was a bit comfortable playing back home and I needed to go to the next step and win away from home.
"And then I won in Mauritius, which still counts as a Sunshine Tour event, so I still felt like I needed to get off my continent and win something else. So I am just happy that I kind of ticked the box in the right order.
"I remember as an amateur I had to win a national stroke play event and then try and win one of the big three national match play events. I ended up winning the South African amateur match play before I won the stroke play event, and I felt like I needed to take a step back and figure out how to win a stroke play event. It is nice that I am ticking the boxes that I have set for myself.”
South African Coetzee began the day with a one-stroke lead but was knocked off the top of the leaderboard after opening his final round with six straight pars to remain on 11 under par.
He produced a remarkable up-and-down from the thick rough by the sixth green to save par and stay in contention as those around him moved up an incredibly bunched leaderboard.
Coetzee made his first birdie of the day from 20 feet on the difficult seventh before picking up another shot from a similar distance on the short eighth to get to 13 under.
Coetzee, who was chasing back to back titles after winning the Titleist Championship at Pretoria Country Club on the Sunshine Tour last week, saved par again on the ninth to head to the back nine one shot clear of Englishman Laurie Canter, who made birdies at the second, third and fifth to jump into contention.
The 34-year-old made key par putts on the 12th and 13th to remain in front as the chasing pack began to gather just behind him. He then holed birdie putts at the 16th and 17th to move to 16 under par and give himself a two shot cushion heading to the 18th tee.
Coetzee saved his best drive until last and went on to make a par to win for the second week in a row.
Englishman Canter finished alone in second on 14 under after he also made five birdies in a flawless 66.
Coetzee regained the outright lead when he converted lengthy birdie putts at the seventh and eighth before getting up and down from the rough for another valuable par on the ninth.
He birdied the 11th before getting a lucky break on the 12th as his tee shot narrowly avoided the water. He chopped out of the thick stuff on the bank with his second shot before somehow finding the green with his third and going on to save par.
He made another good save from ten feet on the next before sending his tee shot on the short 16th to eight feet and tapping in his birdie putt to get to 15 under.
Another birdie followed at the par five 17th before a par at the last secured the trophy.
World Number 16 Tommy Fleetwood, using the tournament as a warm-up for the US Open, finished with a magnificent round of 64 to end the week on 13 under par and will be left to rue a poor second round of 71 in which he dropped three shots on the front nine. He produced a flawless round, with birdies at the second third and fourth, 12th, 15th, 17th and 18th and will head to Winged Foot in good heart.
Afterwards he said: "I'm happy with how I played and it's nice to put yourself in contention.
"I did some really good practice (before the event) and I wanted to play this week because at the end of the day, I was working on things that I know were right, I had simple thoughts this week, but you have to hit shots like 17 and that is the only time you are going to find out how it's doing.
"So that was my most pleasing thing, the way I played, the way I hit it. On the greens was disappointing, it sounds daft but it was. Inside six feet I was poor this week but that's golf sometimes."
Meanwhile in America, Stewart Cink had an emotional victory at the Safeway Open for his first win since the 2009 Open Championship at Turnberry. The American had eight birdies in a seven-under-par 65 to reach 21 under overall and see off the challenge of compatriot Harry Higgs.
It is 4,074 days since his win at Turnberry, and much has happened since then, not least having to help his wife Lisa fight cancer.
"I definitely had a lot of emotions out there today," said the 47-year-old. "I just was overcome at a few times with a feeling of gratitude and just feeling like how fortunate I am to be in the position that I'm in."
Cink had his son Reagan on the bag at Silverado Country Club in Napa and his wife walked alongside the pair on every hole.
"The last four or five holes of a PGA Tour event your name's on top of the leaderboard, but think about it, I've got my son caddying for me, my wife is in almost five year remission now and she's walking out there just on the side of the ropes, and at 47, I'm able to compete at the highest level and now not just compete, but win," Cink added.
Cink's seventh PGA Tour win - in the opening event of the 2020-21 season - arrived 23 years after his first. The success will secure his Tour card past the point of his 50th birthday and also earns him entry into the 2021 Masters at Augusta.
He made three birdies in his closing four holes to claim the title from 28-year-old Higgs, who has never won on the PGA Tour.
Round-three leaders Brian Stuard, Cameron Percy and James Hahn all fell out of contention, while Scotland's Russell Knox was two under for his final round to end tied for ninth on 16 under.
The second men's major of the year, the US Open, begins at Winged Foot in New York on Thursday.
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