Charl Schwartzel won the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Championship by seven strokes in a record-breaking 24-under-par, and he believes his swing better than it has ever been ahead of this year’s event which tees off on Thursday at Leopard Creek Country Club.
Schwartzel is a three-time winner of the tournament and he also has four-runner-up finishes at a course which is one of his favourite in the world, so his name features in everybody’s list of picks ahead of the tournament every year.
“It’s a bold statement, but golf-swing-wise things feels better than they’ve ever been,” said Schwartzel. “That’s a great comfort and a real positive that excites me.”
It’s the culmination of a lengthy process of over a year of fixing a swing that let the 2011 Masters champion down for the first time in his professional career. “Last year this time we sat down and it was probably the worst place my golf swing has been in as a professional,” he said.
“It takes time and I lost a lot of confidence. It’s a year later now and the improvement is so big. But there are parts of my game that aren’t right yet.
“I’ve been playing well from the middle of the year with my long game, but there were no results. I figured out that with all the scrapping in my long game that my putting wasn’t as good as it should be. I was hitting a lot of greens and shooting level-par rounds, walking off with 34 putts.
“I went in and started analysing what was going on with my putting and found some bad mistakes. Where I think I’m aiming I’m not aiming. You can’t putt like that – you think you’re putting it right edge and hitting it a foot right – it’s never gonna go in!”
So he has started consulting with Sherylle Calder, the ‘eye-doctor’ who has helped Ernie Els and Branden Grace, amongst others.
“I’ve only had two sessions with her and there was an improvement,” said Schwartzel. “It was difficult for me last week in Dubai, because I had to fight my feelings, because what she’s done and what I feel are way off. My feelings and actual play are hard to trust, and under pressure that’s difficult. In the big picture there is huge improvement and it’s on the right track, which excites me.”
With his game looking as if it is falling into place, other contenders would do well to keep their eye on Schwartzel.
“This tournament has served me well over the years and gotten me out of some slumps,” he said. “It’s gotten me back on my feet before, and I’m hoping for the same thing. Every time I come back it has a really peaceful feeling and some great memories.”