Charl’s the man, say SA fans ahead of Masters

He is the South African golfer most Sunshine Tour fans believe can win the Masters this year, and Charl Schwartzel would certainly appear to have the game to tame Augusta National when the first major of the year gets underway on Thursday.

Nearly 33 percent of visitors to the Sunshine Tour’s website who took part in a poll last week asking which South African was most likely to pull off a win believed Schwartzel is the man who can become the third South African to don the green jacket.

He was leading – in descending order – Ernie Els (16%), Retief Goosen (14%), Tim Clark (12%), Louis Oosthuizen (10%), Rory Sabbatini (10%) and 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman (5%).

The 26-year-old Schwartzel is, on the face of it, incredibly young in golfing terms, but, with four Sunshine Tour Order of Merit victories to his name – the first came when he was just 20 – he has more experience than meets the eye.

He was the youngest South African golfer to make it onto the European Tour after Dale Hayes when he qualified for his card in 2003 at the age of 18.

He’s won the 2007 Open de Espana and the 2008 Madrid Masters, as well as events on the Sunshine Tour which were co-sanctioned by the European Tour – the 2004 dunhill championship, the 2010 Africa Open and Joburg Open, and the 2011 Joburg Open.

And he made the United States pundits sit up and take note with a superb second place behind a resurgent Els in last year’s World Golf Championships-CA Championship before going on to his first Masters where he finished in a share of 30th.

He found his feet on major stages after that though, and was not outside the top 20 in the remaining three majors last year.

Having joined the US PGA Tour this year, he is starting to feel at home on American courses, and his form is slowly reaching the kinds of error-free levels he achieved when pulling off back-to-back European Tour wins.

He’s finished in the top 25 of his five events on the PGA Tour so far, and while that is not good enough to make the radars of most analysts ahead of the Masters, South African fans know what he can produce.

He’s long, he’s straight, he’s great around the greens and out of sand, and he can putt. That’s the complete package, and it’s what it takes to win the Masters.

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