For many fans, when Charl Schwartzel tees off in the first round of the US Open with Tim Clark and Louis Oosthuizen, the group with the South African most likely to win a major this week will be underway.
While Clark, the 2010 Players champion, doesn’t have a major to his name – yet – and the 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen is likely to be distracted by the imminent birth of a child, Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion has looked likely to win at any stage throughout the year after his brilliant finish to 2012.
“I’ve had a good few weeks where it could very easily have turned out my way with some wins,” he said on the website of his management company, ISM. “So hopefully it all comes together for the US Open.”
When Schwartzel gets all his ducks in a row – as he did when he won the Masters – he is one of the most intimidatingly difficult players on the planet to beat.
And it looks as if the ducks are lining up: “I’m very happy with my game at the moment,” he said. “My ball striking has been very good for some time now. My short game is in good shape, but obviously you can never work enough on that.”
On a course which is going to be as difficult as Merion Golf Club appears to be – with both the tough US Open set-up and the weather threatening to add a further dimension to the challenge of a major – Schwartzel’s almost obsessive dislike of making bogey is likely to be valuable.
“What I’ve heard is very exciting for me,” he said. “Narrow fairways and a short course – it’s going to take a lot of discipline, hitting a lot of irons off tees to put the ball in position. The short stuff will be key.”
Of course, writing off the accurate Clark and the slightly distracted Oosthuizen is not smart – they both have the ammunition to win.
As does Ernie Els. And don’t ignore the credentials of the other South Africans in the field. While the mercurial Rory Sabbatini has not had a good year, but he is as capable of going low as anybody else.
While Jaco van Zyl may be playing his first US Open, he has the game to deal with the tough conditions. And we all know the capabilities of George Coetzee and Branden Grace, So if they come good, there could be a lot of South Africans doing well.
But ignore the chances of Schwartzel at your peril.