Charl’s game turning ahead of PGA Championship

Charl Schwartzel is the youngest of the five major champions South Africa has in the field for this week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course in South Carolina.

And, while his form has not been as eye-catching of late as has Louis Oosthuizen’s and Ernie Els’, his final round barnstormer in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational last week will have given him a heap of confidence going into the final major of the year.

The 2011 Masters champion finished in a share of 24th, but his seven-under-par final round of 63 lifted him 32 places on the leaderboard, and was the best round of the day as a charging Keegan Bradley won with his 64, and Steve Stricker matched that on his way to a share of second with Jim Furyk.

It matched the round of the tournament, Furyk’s opening 63, which was achieved when the weather was benign and the course was playing considerably easier than it was on the final day.

Schwartzel made seven birdies, including four in a row around the turn – from eight to 11 – without a dropped shot. That was in stark contrast to his opening three rounds which included two double bogeys and 11 bogeys – hardly the kind of way to play while you’re making nine birdies.

And it was not the kind of golf he always says he aims to play.

But on the tough Ocean Course, consistency is going to be paramount, and that’s what he achieved at Firestone last Sunday: He hit 13 greens in regulation and required only 24 putts.

In addition, it was his fifth top 25 in his last eight starts in a year in which it took many weeks to allow a rib injury to heal, and in which he’s still looking for his first victory.

He is upbeat ahead of the PGA: “I’m feeling excited,” he said on his website. “I have been working on my swing, and it seems to be starting to repeat itself more and more, which is what I need to do to compete.

“My chipping has been bad, but that’s also starting to get a lot better through all the practicing and playing more rounds.”

He’s also feeling good about his putting, which has not been up to the standard he wants for a while now.

“My putting has been letting me down for about a year now; it’s the only reason I haven’t won again. But I changed my putter and my grip to cross-handed in the last round of the Bridgestone and it felt really good. “So with all the things falling in place now, I’m starting to feel a lot more confident for the PGA.”

South Africans in the PGA Championship:
Thomas Aiken
Tim Clark
George Coetzee
Ernie Els
Retief Goosen
Branden Grace
Trevor Immelman
Louis Oosthuizen
Rory Sabbatini
Charl Schwartzel

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