Schwartzel fancies SA chances
It has been sixteen months since a South African won a major, but Charl Schwartzel believes that wait could soon be over, with no fewer than fourteen men from the Rainbow Nation teeing it up at the Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes, starting on Thursday.
With Louis Oosthuizen losing out to Bubba Watson in a playoff for the Masters at Augusta in April, Schwartzel remains the last local player to taste major success.
Schwartzel hinted it could be young Branden Grace's - a three-time European tour winner this season - turn to win one of the big ones.
“There's a lot of South Africans playing well,” said Schwartzel on Tuesday after a practice round with George Coetzee, Grace and Oosthuizen.
“Branden obviously has had a good year, George [Coetzee] has also been playing really well, even Ernie [Els] is catching some form.
I'm sure by Sunday there'll be a few of us up there.”
Looking at his own chances, Schwartzel is confident he can win any event he enters, but says this is the major that probably least fits his game.
“I do believe I can win - the tougher it gets, the better I get.”
I don't think the Open Championships suits me as well as the other three majors, purely because of the cold conditions we get out here.
I'm the first to admit I do struggle when it gets cold, so hopefully I can find a way to, some sort of key thought to get myself through making the right/same swings in these sort of conditions.”
While the man from Maccauvlei Golf Club avoided one of the pressured “favourites” tags, he said he would still fancy his chances.
“[My] confidence is high. I always come in confident to any golf tournament I play.
I seldom hit the ball very badly so I always give myself a chance at it. If I can make a few putts that obviously always boosts the confidence a little higher.
I'm feeling good, I've had a bit of time off and time to think about a few things, and I'm excited to play.”
During the week leading up to the Open, many players have cited the difficulty of the course, with Tiger Woods coming out and saying the rough, in particular, is punitive.
Schwartzel echoed the 14-time major winner's sentiments of the coastal links layout.
“The golf course is a very tough course.
You need precision just about on every shot you hit this week.
There's no margin for error and with the weather forecast I think it's going to be quite a tough task.”
Meanwhile, the 24-year old Grace was bullish about his chances on the course after a practice round which did not include many visits to the long grass.
“We played really well so I think we saw the good side of the golf course. We weren't really in the rough,” said Grace.
“I didn't think it was as tough as other people made it out to be.”
Grace, however, did concede there were a number of 'no-go' areas on most holes.
“Obviously there are some thick spots out there on the course in the rough that you just really need to try and avoid. The course is in great shape, the greens are good. I'm amazed at the condition it's in after all this rain.”
The man from George said the key to unlocking low-scoring might be in driving the ball straight and far.
“If you can hit the fairways then 70% of the hole is finished,” he explained.
“It's not one of the longest golf courses so you know your approach shots are gonna be a lot more nine-irons, wedges and things like that.
“Obviously it depends on the weather as well, if you keep it on the fairways, it makes it easier.”