Coetzee wins in Europe at last as Fleetwood finds form ahead of U.S. Open

George Coetzee - cropped
Portugal Masters champion George Coetzee

South African George Coetzee landed his fifth European Tour title after fending off a Tommy Fleetwood charge at the Portugal Masters.

Beginning the final round with a one-shot advantage, the 34-year-old from Pretoria held his nerve impressively as a five-under-par 66 saw him grab a first win on the tour since the 2018 Tshwane Open.

Coetzee was a winner last week on South Africa's Sunshine Tour, meaning he arrived at Vilamoura in the mood to challenge.

It was a third 66 of the week that saw him over the winning line on 16 under, with Coetzee finishing two ahead of England's Laurie Canter, who holed a 30-foot par putt at the last, and three clear of the back-to-form Fleetwood.

Although Fleetwood's closing 64 was not bettered on the final day, the former Open and U.S. Open runner-up was coming from too far back.

He vaulted nine places up the leaderboard to take a share of third place with Sweden's Joakim Lagergren, but it was Coetzee's day.

Curiously, all four of Coetzee's previous European Tour wins came outside Europe – three in South Africa and one in Mauritius.

He was thrilled to produce his best drive of the day at the testing final hole, saying: "I'm ecstatic. It's the work me and my psychologist have been doing, and my coach. It's just nice to see it pay off."

Fleetwood now feels in better shape to mount a challenge at the upcoming U.S. Open, which begins on Thursday at Winged Foot, New York.

The 29-year-old played several events on the PGA Tour after its lockdown lifted, without getting into contention.

He was heading to the United States via London after finishing his round in Portugal, and said: "I'm very, very happy with how I played. It's nice to put yourself in contention."

Fleetwood told the European Tour official website: "I was nowhere near for a few weeks in America. I did some really good practice and wanted to play this week."

He had one gripe though, and it was with his putting. "Inside six feet I was poor this week but that's how it goes."

Edited by Omnisport
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