34-year old George Coetzee found himself stuck in a four-way tie for fifth after round one of the Portugal Masters, and he didn’t do himself any favors the following day with a one-under 70. By the end of round three on Saturday, however, the South African sits atop the leaderboard after matching his opening-round score of 66.
Coming off a Sunshine Tour victory in his native country last week, Coetzee made up for a middling start (including a bogey at the 7th) with a blistering finish. He came within inches of holing his second shot at the par-5 17th for albatross before “settling” for an eagle. The South African was equally brilliant at the par-5 18th, birdying one of the most difficult holes on the Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course.
“I kind of felt like I was in a good space today,” Coetzee told the media. “Didn’t really get going on the front nine, and missed a couple of good opportunities on the back nine. And then, when I started finally making them, it was kind of smooth sailing from there.”
LEADERBOARD: Portugal Masters
Julien Guerrier’s third round turned out to be anything but smooth sailing. The Frenchman followed up his first-round 62 and second-round 66 with a disastrous 4-over 75, including a tee shot at at the 15th that sliced well right of the fairway. After relinquishing a five-shot lead, Guerrier now sits T-2 with Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura; both are one shot back of Coetzee. Kawamura, to his credit, improved upon yesterday’s 71 with his third-round 65.
Englishman Laurie Canter, who was third after round one, remains in contention, T-4 with Niklas Lemke of Sweden. Liam Johnston, who scorched the field with an opening-round 61, has fallen back down to Earth, but he managed to stay T-6 after carding 70 on the day. Tommy Fleetwood of England has had a mediocre tournament so far, and he now finds himself T-12 after his second 68 of the week.
The final round of the Portugal Masters will kick off at 2:50 a.m. ET on Sunday in Vilamoura. Coetzee will attempt to secure the win as he tees off with Canter at 7:35 a.m.