Charl negotiates wind well at Blue Monster

Charl Schwartzel was one of very few players who negotiated the notoriously difficult 18th at TPC Blue Monster at Doral, Florida in par in the windy opening round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.

Adam Scott who led on six-under-par 66, Thomas Bjorn (68) and Schwartzel (68) all negotiated the 467 yards in four strokes. Jason Dufner, who also shot 66 and was tied at the top with Scott, could have had the lead alone but bogeyed the final hole.

“It felt like an eagle,” laughed Schwartzel afterwards. “It’s playing tough. I think that’s as tough a wind as you can play it in, off the left. If you bail, you are probably going to make bogey anyway. It’s one of those where you just really have to take it on. There’s no way out. So I probably hit my best tee-shot of the day down there, which was quite a bit of a bonus, a beautiful five-iron, and I ran off there with a four. I’m very happy.”

With the huge lake bordering the left, palm trees and heavy rough to the right and the prevailing wind whistling at up to 40 kilometres per hour across the hole, as it expected to do for the remainder of the tournament, there is basically no place to hide.

Consider some harrowing stats from the 18th: There were more bogeys, double-bogeys and triple-bogeys (a total of 42) than there were pars (30); the stroke average of 4.743 was higher than that for the par-five first hole (4.743).

And the scores of some of the top players in the world on the par-five first hole and the 18th tell the story: “Well, I hit three-wood into 18, par four, and I hit seven-iron into the first, which is a par five,” said Luke Donald who made birdie on one and bogey on 18 ad finished on two-under-par 70. “So, obviously, when you get this sort of east, southeast wind, it just plays very tough.”

For the man who supplanted Donald as world number one, it was the same. “I felt a little flat out there,” said Rory McIlroy who was one-over after his round. “I shouldn’t. It’s a World Golf Championship.”

And Tiger Woods had to fight his way to a round of even-par 72 after starting the day with an eagle at the first and finishing with a bogey at the last. He three-putted twice, and was fighting with club selection in the gusting winds.

Next best of the South Africans was Jbe’ Kruger, who carded a level-par 72 together with the likes of Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Hennie Otto was on one-over together with Garth Mulroy; Retief Goosen was on two-over, an ailing Louis Oosthuizen on five-over and Branden Grace six-over.

For Schwartzel, the good performance in tough conditions couldn’t be better prep for his Masters defence: “I was able to hit good shots and keep it in the fairway and I made two good par saves that kept my round going,” he said. “And you know, I felt like I played very solid. Only one bogey in these conditions, take it any day.”

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