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Eight SA players take up the challenge in Turkey

Richard Sterne reckons his chipping tips are worth at least R1-million, but George Coetzee is thinking more along the lines of a case of French wine if the former’s advice helps him capture the $7-million Turkish Airlines Open this week.
‘But then it’s got to be really good French wine,’ quipped Sterne as the duo levelled shots at the line of pin flags on the chipping green at the Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort on Tuesday.
‘All I’m saying is that it better be the good stuff. Now line up the club face like I showed you and then set in.’ As Coetzee nearly holed out, Sterne couldn’t resist: ‘You see, that’s worth a million bucks.’
As the European Tour heads into the business end of the 2016 season, Sterne is part of an eight-strong South African onslaught in the high-class field in the Turkish Airlines Open.
Last year’s runner-up Jaco van Zyl is back to take another shot at the title and lines up alongside multiple European Tour champions Sterne, Coetzee and Thomas Aiken, reigning SA Open winner Brandon Stone and 2016 Joburg Open champion Haydn Porteous, Darren Fichardt and Justin Walters.
Sterne comes into the first of the tour’s ‘Final Three’ series of big-money playoff events boasting six top-10 finishes, including a tie for second at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last month. The six-time European Tour winner ranks 32nd in the Race to Dubai and is guaranteed starts in next week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
‘It’s been a good season and I’ve knocked a few times – at the Scottish Open, Irish Open, French Open, the British Masters – but I’ve just had one bad round every time,’ Sterne said. ‘I guess it made sense that I got it together in Scotland, because I love the Old Course.
‘I definitely feel another win is on the horizon and I just need to keep chipping away.’
Although Coetzee is well down in the rankings at 85th, he was in a buoyant mood, too.
He automatically qualifies for Sun City as the 2015 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner, so it’s just a matter of getting his ranking up high enough to seal a spot in the season finale.
Coming off a tie for 40th in the WGCHSBC Champions in Shanghai on Sunday, Coetzee wants a strong performance before he boards the charter flight to Sun City on Sunday night. ‘I never expected to be here at the start of the season, but now that I’ve made it into two of the last three, I want to get to Dubai and I feel it’s within my grasp,’ he said.
After the big-hitting Pretoria golfer broke his ankle surfing last year, he virtually wrote off this season.
‘I knew it would take at least three months for my ankle to recover,’ Coetzee said. ‘There was also some stuff I wanted to work on, so it made sense to do the swing changes this year. The toughest part is figuring out what is wrong and then, once you start tinkering, you have to put in those 10,000 hours to perfect the changes.
‘It’s tough to do since we are always playing, always chasing. You combat frustration and it takes a lot of patience, but it’s worth it. I spent a lot of time on my game in the last nine months and I feel like I’m close to my best again.
‘I’m swinging it a thousand times better than I ever have and it would be great to come out of the Turkish Airlines Open with a solid finish and to go home with a bit of confidence.’
Both players predict a tough week, though, at the pristine Carya course. ‘The greens are smooth and rolling really fast, but it’s a tricky layout,’ said the power-hitting Coetzee. ‘It’s very different to the Montgomerie Maxx Royal, where you could get really aggressive.
‘This course is all about grinding and hitting it in the right spot. The back nine is playing incredibly long. You’re going to hit a lot of drives and long irons and at a lot of holes, you’re aiming away from the flag. It’s a very good test, though, and I’m feeling really positive about the week.’
Besides Sterne, Brandon Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel are in the top 30, Stone is sitting pretty in 40th spot in the Race to Dubai and Van Zyl is another automatic qualifier at 55th in the standings after Shanghai.
But Aiken, Porteous, Walters and Fichardt – respectively ranked 72, 80, 94 and 96 – need a solid showing in Turkey if they hope to boost South Africa’s numbers at Sun City next week.

Picture of Sterne giving Coetzee a chipping lesson ahead of the European Tour’s Turkish Airlines Open courtesy of Lali Stander.


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