A golfer in the bush is worth ...

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Schwartzel_Thailand3 REUTERS South Africa's Charl Schwartzel has disappeared into the bush as he prepares for the British Open.

Charl Schwartzel, who has spent four weeks on competitive golf’s sidelines recovering from a muscle strain in his chest, is back to 100 percent fitness and will take his place in next week’s 141st edition of the Open Championship, being played this year at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

“I spoke to Charl on Thursday and he told me he was absolutely fine,” said former Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour commissioner Louis Martin, who now works for the giant ISM management group and looks after the affairs of several players in their stable, including Schwartzel and Branden Grace.

“Charl flies out to the UK (on Sunday) but he’s spent the last few days in the bush out of cellphone range, so I haven’t been able to speak to him again. But he loves the bush and it’s always a good tonic for him to go there before a big tournament,” Martin said of the 2011 Masters champion.

Schwartzel hasn’t had a great year by his own high standards – he himself admitted as much last month when he was recovering from the injury.

“It’s been an average year in which I’ve played pretty well but with the wrong results. But there’s still lots of time to turn it into a great year. Majors are the biggest tournaments you can win in golf and ultimately they’re what you judge your career on at the end of the day.”

He is itching to notch up his first win of the season and there’s the tantalising prospect that he could do so in a Major, as besides next week’s Open, there’s the US PGA at Kiawah Island in South Carolina from August 9-12.

Schartzel’s close friend and fellow Major winner Louis Oosthuizen is also focusing on the Open in a bid to repeat his success of 2010 when he was able to famously lift the old Claret Jug following his victory at St Andrews.

King Louis then came close, of course, in this year’s Masters when Bubba Watson played that miracle “banana shot” from the trees at Augusta to beat him in sudden-death.

“I’ll be back!” Oosthuizen exclaimed in his latest blog, and he clearly could be a player to watch on the treacherous Lytham links.

If we count Brazil-born SA resident Adilson da Silva as “one of us”, it means there will be no fewer than 15 South Africans in the 156-man line-up for the Open.

Ernie Els will be trying for a second win in golf’s oldest Major following his victory at Muirfield in 2002, while Retief Goosen, Branden Grace, George Coetzee, Trevor Immelman, Tim Clark, Richard Sterne, Thomas Aiken, Garth Mulroy, Jbe Kruger, Andrew Georgiou and Grant Veenstra are the other South Africans in the elite line-up of world class golfers.

There was a time when it was just Els and Goose who would carry our hopes in a Major. And while those two old warhorses aren’t finished yet, South Africa can now look to others who can win at the highest level.

Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Immelman have already won Majors and there is no doubt that the likes of Grace – already a three-time winner on the European Tour this year – also harbours Major ambitions. – Saturday Star


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