Wallie Coetsee enjoys walks on the Jeffreys Bay beach most mornings with his two daughters and a braai at night, and the relaxed lifestyle certainly seems to be rubbing off on his golf as the 42-year-old cruised into the lead midway through the lucrative Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Friday.
Coetsee added a six-under-par 65 on the West Course to the brilliant 66 he shot on the East Course on the first day to go to 12-under-par and he will be chased on the weekend by three golfers on 11-under – Simon Dyson, Garth Mulroy and Tjaart van der Walt – as well as Niclas Fasth and Anthony Wall on 10-under and Kristoffer Broberg, Alexander Noren, Thomas Aiken and Stuart Manley on nine-under.
Coetsee was off to a fast start on Friday as he birdied the first three holes but, after 23 years on the Sunshine Tour, he knows that there will be times when a patient approach is best.
Another birdie on the par-four sixth was followed by a bogey on seven, and Coetsee then just sat tight through a run of seven successive pars.
“I was very patient and my game plan was just to leave the tough pins, go for the safer side. You can’t attack every flag, there’s going to be a time to go and a time to be safe. Patience is the key, you can’t force things, it will happen,” Coetsee said.
And when it did happen the reward was a spectacular eagle on the 489-metre par-five 15th, followed by a birdie on the par-four 17th that gave Coetsee a one-stroke lead.
“I’d had very good up-and-downs on 13 and 14, and then on 15 I hit a very good drive and had 218 metres to the flag. I hit a four-iron pin-high, five or six metres from the hole and sank the putt,” Coetsee explained, before giving the credit for a calm approach on the golf course to a relaxed lifestyle off it.
“We don’t have a TV at home in Jeffrey’s Bay, we’d rather walk on the beach or ride our bikes and my recent form has everything to do with the lifestyle. We’re in bed by eight, we’re reading books, I’m up early either to walk on the beach at six with Zoe and Kelly before school or I can go and practice very early,” Coetsee said.
Dyson, a six-time European Tour winner and a former member of the world’s top 30, produced a top-class round of 67 on the tough East Course to climb the leaderboard into a share of second.
A return to the Srixon clubs Dyson used a couple of years ago is clearly paying off.
“I’m back to the clubs I used a couple of years ago. My swing was good and I was playing really nicely, but I just didn’t know how far the ball was going with my previous clubs. And it’s nice to be able to see the yellow Srixon ball the whole way in the flight and it obviously helps on the greens.
“I’m very pleased, I’ve had quite a few birdies on the first two days and that hasn’t happened for a while, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in over the weekend,” Dyson said.
The saddest story of the day was the cruel fate that befell Nic Henning, whose course record equalling 62 on the first day not only gave him the lead but also seemed to have set up another veteran who has endured a grim few years for a decent payday.
Henning began the day well enough with a birdie on the East Course’s 472-metre par-five opening hole, but alas, it all fell apart thereafter.
The 45-year-old carded four successive bogeys from the fifth hole and in a trice he had crashed to six-under-par overall and was already flirting with the cut line as he reached the turn in 40.
He birdied the par-four 11th, but then his ball was swallowed by the pond on the 13th, leading to a double-bogey, and further dropped shots on the 16th and 18th condemned him to a 78 that saw the first-round leader miss the cut, on four-under, by one stroke.
The fact that the cut was so low, equalling the lows of 2011, 2012 and 2013, shows that most golfers feasted on a cooler day in Linksfield with very little wind.
Englishman Wall helped himself to an eagle on the first hole of the East Course and followed up with three more birdies before the turn. He dropped a shot on the par-four 10th, but then further birdies on the 16th and 18th holes gave him a 66 that left him just two strokes behind Coetsee.
Van der Walt, another South African veteran, was also off to a fast start on the East Course with four birdies on the front nine, but the inward loop was a bit tougher and the 40-year-old carded two bogeys and a par. But his 69 was still good enough to leave him in a tie for second.
“It was one shot at a time, stereotypical golf, because you can’t get ahead of yourself on this course. It was a bit more difficult to read the greens today, it was a struggle to pick the lines. But I’m hitting the ball well enough,” Van der Walt said.
Mulroy followed the pattern of the other golfers on 11-under with three birdies on the front nine and then two birdies and a bogey returning to the clubhouse. The winner of the 2011 Alfred Dunhill Championship is clearly one of the main threats to Coetsee.
The defending champion, George Coetzee, is just four strokes off the lead after a 69 on the East Course left him on eight-under, while Richard Sterne, the 2008 and 2013 champion, is in the group on six-under.
Darren Clarke, the newly-announced European Ryder Cup captain, missed the cut after a 72 on Friday left him on one-over-par for the tournament.