Oakmont putting test tougher than Augusta: Schwartzel

Valspar Championship - Final RoundThere is a sense that if Charl Schwartzel gets it right, there are not many people in the field for the US Open at Oakmont Country Club who will be able to match him.

He is fresh off a win on the PGA Tour this year in the Valspar Championship, and he has had four top-20 finishes in the US Open since 2010, and in his last start in the Memorial, he finished in a share of 11th.

Of course, there was his impressive victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship ahead of his illness-enforced break at the end of last year, and then his stellar comeback win in the Tshwane Open.

On a course that has attracted so much commentary about the difficulty of its setup, he’s going to need to be at his best. That means he will need to be precise off the tees to allow the rest of his game to give him the kind of edge that can see him slip out of reach.

And then there is putting – the thing that saw him win so spectacularly in the 2011 Masters, and which saw him battle to regain those lofty heights.

He’s aware of the difficulties the Oakmont greens will pose for him as much as for any other player in the field. “These greens are more difficult than at the Masters,” the world number 22 told Reuters. “Augusta has big slopes but they are gradual, almost constant in a way. Here you’ve got big slopes that have four breaks. The ball comes off a break and it will turn the other way and it will go back the other way and then down a hill.

“There are so many more variables here, so many slopes. To get speed right here is going to be so hard, and it’s going to be key this week.”

In Schwartzel’s favour is that he relishes the challenge posed by the setup. “I like golf courses set up this way more than the ones where the guys can basically hit it anywhere and it becomes a little bit of a putting contest,” he said.

“This really, really shows the weakness in your game if there is anything, and it even shows the weakness in your mind, if there is anything like that too.

“I love the way you have to prepare for these events, not just on your game and mapping the course out, looking at it from different angles but also how you set goals for your mind-set for the week. It’s very different from what we normally play.”

There are not many players who look forward to something as difficult as the challenge posed by Oakmont. But Schwartzel could use that anticipation to reel in a second major title.


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