Few men can boast a finer pedigree in co-sanctioned events than Charl Schwartzel, who has recorded wins at both the Africa Open (2010) and the Joburg Open (2010 and 2011). Of course, the tournament in which he’s been most prolific is the Alfred Dunhill Championship, where he sealed wins in 2005, 2012 and 2013.
The one notable absentee from his trophy cabinet, however, is his national Open, although that appeared to be next in line at Ekurhuleni’s Glendower Golf Club last time around. The former Masters champion led by one going into the final round in 2013, and then flew out of the blocks with three birdies in the first four holes on Sunday.
However, a triple bogey at the short sixth proved to be a major stumbling block, and a further double bogey at the 10th hole effectively ended his chances as he finished three strokes behind eventual-winner Morten Orum Madsen.
“Last year I was up there for a while in the last round, and I’ve come close a few times,” reflected the 30-year old after Tuesday’s pro-am. “It’s one of those tournaments that I definitely want to win before my career stops.”
He continued: “It’s great to be back at Glendower as well, and I think the golf course is set up even better than last year. I like the rough, it’s up. That gives a guy playing well an advantage. Last year with the rough down it was a bit of a free-for-all.”
Tougher scoring conditions may well play into the hands of the steady Schwartzel, who has finished in the top five at the SA Open on five occasions. However, an unfortunate recent injury means he may have to endure some discomfort this week as he bids to get his name on the iconic old trophy.
“I’ve had a bit of a setback this week with my toe that I bashed a couple of days ago,” Schwartzel explained. “It’s a little tender and I’m struggling to go fully onto my left side, but at least I have a day to rest it (on Wednesday).
“I played pretty decently in the Pro-Am considering my toe, but it was sore. I have a double dose of painkillers and some anti-inflammatories. It’s very tender and a bit sore, but only to walk on and not to swing. If it was bothering me a lot on the golf swing I don’t think I’d even consider playing. At least it seems like I can swing the club without too much pain,” he added.
Like many of the players, Schwartzel enjoyed a much-needed break over the festive season after a modest 2014. But three solid rounds at Leopard Creek in December gave him sufficient encouragement to believe that some improved form is just around the corner.
“My game is slowly coming back,” the nine-time European Tour winner noted. “I actually thought I started to hit the ball really well at the Dunhill three weeks ago. Today was pretty good too. It looks like it’s definitely moving back into where I can make a swing and the ball goes where I want it to.
“If you start making a few putts then it rolls with the confidence and I think that’s when everything kicks into gear,” he added.