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Golf | SA

Refreshed Charl ready for action



Victories at the Thailand and Alfred Dunhill Championships by 11 and 12 shots respectively was some way for Charl Schwartzel to end his 2012 season, and the collective winnings of €350 000 would no doubt have kept his finances in shape during the six-week break from golf that he subsequently took.

But a well-rested Schwartzel returns to the fold at this week’s Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, and the €1.3 million event is one in which he tasted back-to-back successes in 2010 and 2011.

“There are good memories about this place, starting back from junior days,” the 28 year old told a media conference on Wednesday. “It’s the highlight of the year for me to come back and play Joburg, and I’ve always loved playing this golf course. I grew up here on the Highveld and these are the sort of courses we played growing up. It suits my eye and my game, and I’ve had a few practice rounds here, playing both courses.”

“The course has looked great and I’m really looking forward to the week,” he added.

Much of Schwartzel’s 2012 season was plagued by a torn intercostal muscle, and as a result he failed to achieve the consistency he had hoped for. However, the former Masters champion believes the layoff has done him the world of good, and is excited about the prospect of returning to competitive golf again.

“It’s been one of the longest breaks I’ve ever taken – six weeks. I did some practice, I didn’t miss that,” Schwartzel smiled. “After resting my body I feel refreshed, so now there are no excuses. I’ll try to go with the same thoughts and processes I used at the end of last year.”

“I’ve been watching the guys play on TV and being in contention is the thing we miss. I’m looking forward to getting back and competing again.”

Schwartzel is one of many marquee players in a strong field looking to tame the two courses at Royal Johannesburg this week, and he will have defending champion Branden Grace for company when he gets his tournament under way at 11am at the East Course on Thursday.

But despite exhibiting such scintillating form at the end of last year, Schwartzel is keeping his expectations for claiming the R2.5 million winner’s cheque this week under control, and is choosing instead to see it as an opportunity to build for 2013.

“It’s hard to follow with those expectations, but if I can get off the mark and play consistent golf I’ll be happy. I just want to start off on a nice, consistent wave. If I can get it going and start on a solid base – that’s what I’m looking for,” Schwartzel explained.

“It’s such a long year, and I think that (his victories at the end of last year) was a good start. Now it’s my time to start. I’ve got five tournaments running in a row now, and if I can continue where I left off that would be great.”

The European and Sunshine Tour sanctioned event, which also includes the likes of 2008 champion Richard Sterne, George Coetzee and Robert Rock, commences at 6:30am on Thursday, with live coverage available on SuperSport from 12:30.

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