Charl’s putter starting to warm up

He’s played just two events on the US PGA Tour this year, but Charl Schwartzel is already looking in the kind of form that could see him successfully defend his Masters title next month.

He goes into this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship with momentum building after his share of fifth in the Honda Classic – and the knowledge that the part of his game which gave him his Masters win last year is close to the kind of level which made him unstoppable over the last four holes at Augusta National.

He was only 10th best putter for last week’s tournament, but he was the best player in the field for greens in regulation, hitting the putting surface 56 times out of 72 in the standard number of strokes.

So, when his putting gets back into the kind of groove it was in for the Masters last year, he is going to be a formidable opponent for any player.

And while the form of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods is the talk of the golfing world, Schwartzel’s approach ahead of the first major of the year is a little less public, a lot less spectacular and it might just be what is needed to earn another green jacket.

The TPC Blue Monster course at Doral Golf Resort and Spa was the scene of Schwartzel’s runner-up finish to Ernie Els in the event in 2010, and it is a course which both suits Schwartzel’s game and makes for a good staging ground for the slick Augusta greens.

The greens at Doral will run in the region of 12 on the stimp, and while that might not be as frighteningly fast as some of the surfaces that will be encountered in the Masters, it allows players to ease into the kind of putting stroke that will be required.

For now, he has dialled down on driving distance: He averaged just 280 yards off the tee last week, and hit 68% of the fairways as a result. At the Blue Monster, he will be looking for more distance, especially on the easy par-five 529-yard first. Many players will reach the wide, flat green in two and get off to a hot start. It served up eight eagles and 142 birdies in the tournament last year, and Schwartzel will be looking for a slice of that.

But it is the putting to which he will be looking: He was brilliant inside 10 feet last week, but needed work on putts from 10 to 15 feet.

And if those start dropping, there will be another name on the fans’ lips as the US season gets even hotter.

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