Schwartzel chases more success on favourite course
After an amazing 11-shot win in Thailand on Sunday, South African Charl Schwartzel has returned to one of his favourite courses in search of more success this week.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship takes place at Leopard Creek again on the border of the Kruger National Park in his home country.
“If it was any other tournament I would have pulled out,” Schwartzel told the European Tour website following his first victory since the US Masters in April last year. You don’t get much better than the setting at Leopard Creek and I figured I could get myself going on that.
“I’m not hitting it that well, but that’s just my body being tired. I love being out in the bush and you don’t get much more in the bush than this.
“It’s such a relaxing atmosphere and of top of that the course is in such great shape.”
The 28-year-old had his first European Tour win at the venue eight years ago and has been a runner-up no fewer than four times since then, to Ernie Els and Alvaro Quiros the following two seasons and then behind Pablo Martin in both 2009 and 2010.
Last weekend’s win had certainly been coming. Schwartzel was fifth in the South African Open, third behind Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and then second to Martin Kaymer in the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City.
Having overcome a rib injury during the summer he added: “It’s a great feeling winning again. It has been a tough year and very frustrating at times, but the last six weeks things have started feeling a lot better.
“I was able to start getting my swing back to where it should be and the results started showing.”
World number five Louis Oosthuizen is also in this week’s field and it would be no surprise to see him win either.
The 2010 Open champion’s last six finishes have been fourth, sixth, sixth (all in China), second to Matteo Manassero at the Singapore Open, fifth in Dubai and fourth at the Nedbank.
Also to be settled this week is the end-of-year world top 50, which brings with it an invitation to the US Masters next spring. Dane Thorbjorn Olesen is currently in 50th spot, but is not playing and therefore under threat. So is South Africa’s 49th-ranked George Coetzee, who will drop below Olesen if he does not collect any points at Leopard Creek.
Irish interest centres on Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Michael Hoey.
Dunhill Championship The lowdown
Course: Leopard Creek Country Club, Malelane, South Africa.
Prize money: €1.5 million (€250,000 to the winner).
Length: 7,326 yards. Par: 72. Field: 156.
Layout: On the southern edge of Kruger National Park, it is an incredible golfing experience with wild animals usually close to the action. Although a long course most of the par fives are reachable in two shots but the 18th is guarded by a lake and many have met a watery grave there.
Last year: Garth Mulroy beat George Murray by two shots.
Type of player suited to the challenge: Recent heavy rain has made the course play even longer so the big hitters should do well.
On TV: Sky Sports 2 from 8.30am.
Weather forecast: Clear and calm conditions are expected.