JOHANNESBURG – It's been a disappointing 2018 for Charl Schwartzel but if the former Masters champion gets it going this week he could pull off one of the most significant wins of his career when the SA Open tees off at Randpark tomorrow.
Schwartzel’s world ranking has plummeted to 85th and he hasn’t won in two seasons, his last wins coming in 2016 at the Tshwane Open, the Alfred Dunhill Championship - which he also win in 2013 and 2014 - and the Valspar Championship on the PGA Tour.
But the 2011 Masters winner shot a scintillating nine-under-par 62 on the Firethorn course at Randpark in the pro-am yesterday and said afterwards his game is in great shape.
“My game actually feels as good as ever,” said the 34-year-old who is chasing a first SA Open title. “I’m obviously lacking confidence at the moment and maybe expecting too much,” he added.
“There have been two or three good rounds this year, but then I’ve also struggled somewhere. It’s difficult to put my finger on what’s wrong. On the range and in practice rounds everything’s great... the way I’m hitting it, the control, everything. But then you’ve got this little thing called ‘golf’, where you need to put a score on the board. And that’s where we are judged, and rightly so, but I’m struggling to control those results.”
Schwartzel also shot an eight-under 63 on the Bushwillow course at Randpark on Monday, proof he is in the good form he talks about.
“I just need to transfer it into the tournament,” said the two-time SA Open runner-up - in 2005 and 2015.
Only 1 day to go!— Sunshine Tour (@Sunshine_Tour) December 5, 2018
The courses at @RandparkGolf are in pristine condition and ready to host the historic @SAOpen_Golf hosted by @CityofJoburgZA.#SAOpen #SunshineTour #ItBeginsHere pic.twitter.com/hTmGiiiFVe
Schwartzel’s best efforts on the PGA Tour this year came in late April and early May when he was third at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, tied ninth at the Wells Fargo Championship and tied second at The Players. But he also missed seven cuts. And on the European Tour he only had two top 10s, at the European Open in July and the European Masters in September.
“It’s nice to be back in South Africa again and playing in the SA Open, it’s something I always look forward to,” he said.
The tournament gets underway tomorrow with the 240-strong field playing a round each on the Bushwillow and Firethorn courses, with the final two rounds to be contested only on Firethorn.
A total prize fund of over R17 million is up for grabs this week, as well as places at the Open Championship next year.@jacq_west