Golf-Birthday boy Coetzee celebrates with birdie bonanza

Reuters

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By Tony Jimenez

HOYLAKE, England, July 18 (Reuters) - George Coetzee was not allowed much of a lie-in on his 28th birthday on Friday but it did not bother him at all as the South African celebrated with a feast of birdies in the second round of the British Open.

The Joburg Open champion was perhaps slightly sleepy-eyed as he dropped a stroke at the par-four second but an outstanding sequence of five birdies in 11 holes to the 15th briefly lifted him into a share of the lead with overnight pacesetter Rory McIlroy.

Coetzee then suffered a mini slump with bogeys at the 16th and 17th before he signed off in style with a sixth birdie of the day at the last hole securing a three-under-par 69 and a five-under tally of 139.

"I tried to leave a little bit late. I like to get my sleep in but I think we woke up at five past five, left the hotel at 5:30 and got here at 5:45," he told reporters in a reference to his 0720 tee-off time.

"But this is definitely my favourite major. To have my birthday coincide with it is nice."

The players awoke to another blazing hot day on the Royal Liverpool links but with the winds a lot fresher than they were in Thursday's opening round, gusting at up to 25kph.

"I think this morning was quite bad. The wind blew but all the holes weren't playing into the wind so they weren't playing super long," said Coetzee who ended a run of near-misses by capturing his maiden European Tour title in Johannesburg in February.

"You just had to kind of manufacture your shape for the crosswinds. Obviously you can't control your score there as well as you would on a parkland course but I just think it's a lot more fun and you get to use your imagination a bit more.

"We'll see how the day pans out. If the wind drops we might have had the rough side (of the draw)."

Coetzee said he became a little nervous when he glanced up at the leaderboard and realised he was in a share of the lead at golf's oldest major championship.

"It's obvious I looked at it as soon as I was at the top of the leaderboard because I made two bogeys right after that," he laughed.

"But it was quite a good feeling to look at my name and be at the top."

Coetzee flew his mother and girlfriend over from South Africa this week but he will not be overdoing his birthday celebrations later on Friday.

Asked if they would all be having a few drinks, he smiled: "Yeah, a couple of Cokes". (Editing by Tony Goodson)

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