Riding a wave:  George Coetzee has recovered from a broken  ankle, incurred while surfing, which hampered his performance in the  2016 Open. Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images
Riding a wave: George Coetzee has recovered from a broken ankle, incurred while surfing, which hampered his performance in the 2016 Open. Luke Walker/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Images

Golfers and adventure sports are seldom a good match — as SA’s George Coetzee discovered in 2016. In 2015, the 30-year-old was one of the game’s rising stars when he broke an ankle while surfing. This saw his world ranking plummet from a high of 41 to 151.

Coetzee will tee it up at the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club on Thursday, marking the anniversary of his return to the game following his broken ankle.

Coetzee has struggled in the year he has played since returning from injury. Only two top 10 finishes in 25 tournaments was a poor return for a man who had won three European tour events prior to his setback.

Breaking an ankle while surfing is unusual, but Coetzee joined a growing list of players who have suffered serious injuries away from the course.

Most infamously‚ from an SA perspective‚ was when Ernie Els tore knee ligaments while being towed in a rubber "doughnut " by a speedboat in 2005.

At the time, Els was at the peak of his game, and despite winning another Major in 2012‚ he has perhaps never been the same since.

World No2 and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy‚ who is the main attraction in the SA Open field‚ suffered ruptured ankle ligaments while playing football in 2015. He was out for more than six months.

Former World No1 Adam Scott also had a serious knee injury a few years back while running on the beach following a surf.

Ryder Cup players Paul Casey and Miguel Angel Jimenez suffered snowboarding and skiing injuries respectively.

Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen fell off a camel while on a break in Abu Dhabi and missed two months of play.

Last year’s SA Open predictably saw Coetzee miss the cut after his long layoff. Looking back, Coetzee has few fond memories of that experience.

"I think the fact I played it last year with an ankle injury and it was my first tournament back‚ it was torture for me‚" he said.

"Just walking the golf course was hard work and it was painful. Obviously, there aren’t great memories from that with missing the cut as well.

"I’m better prepared‚ I’m fit and strong and feeling good — that’ll be better for me to play this golf course."

And while many of his peers are quick to sing the praises of Glendower Golf Club‚ Coetzee does not feel quite as affectionate towards it.

"I’ve had a lot of chats about it over the holiday and I think my opinion differs from a lot of the other guys‚" he said.

"It’s a really good golf course but horses for courses. I prefer to play tracks where you don’t have to hit it around the corner the whole time.

"Hopefully I’ll hit some good shots‚ play some good golf‚ but it doesn’t really suit my game. Luckily my game is in pretty good nick."

So even though he is not entirely comfortable around Glendower and had an anticlimactic end to 2016‚ he is cautiously optimistic about his chances.

TMG Digital

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