He’s as clear-minded as can be about the magnitude of the task at hand, and you can bet your house Charl Schwartzel will be in contention in the closing stages of the US Open.
A bogey-bogey finish to his third round one-under-par 69 on Saturday was frustrating, but, as he was quick to point out, “I think whenever you shoot an under par on Saturday at the US Open, you can’t be too disappointed.”
He shares second behind Phil Mickelson, who finished on two-under for the tournament after his level-par 70. With Schwarztel, one off the pace, are Hunter Mahan and Steve Stricker.
“There are a few easy holes out there that you got to take advantage of, which I did,” said Schwarztel. “And then you’ve got the hard ones, which are where you come in and finish on. So you’re going to get some and you’re going to give some. Anything under par is fantastic here.”
And he knows that as he steps onto the tee on the 14th in the final round, he’s going to be faced with a searching test of his character and ability to soak up pressure as much as he is going to be faced with a test of his golfing skills: “I reckon if you can pull through it there in level par, if you’re somewhere one or two off the lead or leading, you would be say worst case in a playoff or if you’re tied or something if you play those few level, you would be pretty unlucky not to win.
“Obviously it’s going to be a tough day, but every day has felt like that. You’re going to have to give every single shot all your attention. There’s no hole where you can sort of ease back and sort of freewheel a bit. Every shot that you hit is really intense. So it will be the same. You’ve got to really stick in there tomorrow and try and hit the shots the best you can,” he said.
Of course, it helps that he has a major under his belt – and one in which he experienced coming from behind to win his 2011 Masters title. “I don’t have to worry about getting the first one,” he said. “Obviously you want to get more and more and more, but that monkey is off the back, so I can go ahead and concentrate on trying to finish off a golf tournament.
“I think in a way, on a golf course like this, where you, where if you make bogey you’re not falling too many places, it almost motivates you. Because there are a few holes here where you feel like you can make a birdie, so if you do make bogeys, it’s sort of a comfort that you know everyone’s going to make bogeys around this place,” he added.
Anyone who knows Schwartzel knows how deeply perfectionist he is about his game – remember when he was winning those final two tournaments of 2012 by almost lapping the field and was still complaining that his ball-striking was off?
So for his competitors in the final round at Merion, he has this almost chilling thought: “For me, I’m playing good golf, and I know that I’ve just got to sort of grind it out and stay with it. Not let it get to me.”