Charl overcomes shaky start at Augusta

Charl Schwartzel was three-over through three at Augusta National on Thursday, but dug deep and played his way to an opening 71 at The Masters.

“When you’re 3 over after three holes, you can let it get you down very quickly. I’ve always stayed patient around this course, and just believed that if I kept hitting good shots that I’d start eating back at it. Fortunately for me that was the case. I thought I grinded well, and I can take a lot out of that round,” he said.

The Vereeniging local already has one green jacket hanging in his cupboard and on Thursday he showed the same confidence he did when he won that jacket back in 2011.

After a shocking double at the first, the 28-year-old had to regroup and get on with it. A bogey at the third caused more trouble, but Schwartzel was too classy to be put down, and birdied the fifth, sixth and eighth to reach the turn in level-par.

“Yeah, that was a hard start, 3 over after three holes. Yeah, not quite what you were looking for after quite a few months of preparation,” he said.

A steady run of five pars led to a birdie at the 15th, which was Schwartzel first gain on the back stretch. He had continued to par coming in, and was unfortunate to miss a birdie putt on 18 for a 70.

“I’m happy the way I came back, played really solid from there,” he said. “ Pretty much the way I expected myself to play, and putted well. Pity about the putt on the last. That was a short one. But all in all, it was a tough day, but I’ll take 71.”

While Australian Mark Leishman and Spaniard Sergio Garcia led together after shooting impressive 66s, Schwartzel spent the day fighting his way back into it. There is plenty he’ll take away from his Thursday recovery, and over the next couple of days we’ll surely see the young star go deep.

Plenty of the favourites were thereabouts, including world number one Tiger Woods, who shot two-under-par 70 for the first round. Woods has won three Masters titles with on the back of a first-round 70, and his start was ominous for the competition.

Open Champion Ernie Els also posted 71 on day one and joined Schwartzel in a share of 23rd, while Rory McIlroy managed to string together a luke-warm 72.

Schwartzel has a fresh memory of what it takes to succeed at Augusta National and Friday could prove to be a very good day. Watch out world.

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