Charl Schwartzel comes into this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge chastened by the experience of having to deal with a golf swing that appears to have gone wrong for the first time in his career.
For a man with one of the cleanest swings in the game, it has been frustrating. And with a top 10 in the Open Championship, two top 10s in World Golf Championship tournaments, two top 10s on the PGA Tour, and three on the European Tour in the past year, it might seem difficult to understand that frustration.
Often, when Schwartzel says his game is not great, you have to take that with a pinch of salt. But this time, he’s serious. “Believe it or not I’ve been struggling with the golf swing,” he said. “It’s caught up a bit and over the last few weeks I’ve been in the process of trying to slowly fix it up again and get it back to where it can deliver some more consistent golf shots.”
The 2011 Masters champion became a father eight months ago, too, and that inevitably caused him to take his eye off the golf ball for a while. “It’s a big change, but I’m loving it,” he said. “She’s eight months old and it’s really fantastic. And if I take everything into account it’s been a very decent year, but by my golfing standards it’s been poor. I had a stretch of weeks where I did well, but my consistency was very poor.”
Being a father has also allowed Schwartzel to not be as hard on himself for the problems he’s having as he would ordinarily have been. “I haven’t been hard on myself at all. My desire to play is very high. I don’t know why, because I’m playing really badly! I still want to keep playing, which is a great sign for me.
“I’m working on the right things and I’ve identified the faults. I’m trying to fix it up slowly, and that in itself brings a bit of excitement.
“Maybe that’s what a baby girl does to you. Sure, we always get frustrated and the game does that to you. The way I’ve been playing the last three or four months would have really gotten to me a few years ago, but for some reason I’m keen to play at the moment. I’m still keen to see what’s out there, and if I’ve got that then I’ve still got a chance.”
Being at Gary Player Country Club for the Nedbank Golf Challenge is something that helps Schwartzel, too. “I’m hoping that being back here in South Africa and playing front of home crowds and being in a place I really like can spark something. Hopefully it can boost me and I’ll get something going.
“I played the pro-am with Mike Brown, the CEO of Nedbank, and I was saying to him that this tournament really has a special meaning for South Africans. My desire to win it definitely hasn’t changed.”