Patience is going to be key for Charl Schwartzel as he tries and make his way back to his competitive best, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
I got the feeling that Schwartzel couldn’t believe it when he hit a bad shot around Randpark’s tough Firethorn layout during the opening round of the 2020 SA Open. That led him to try to force it a bit on the front nine, as he started off with three consecutive bogeys, before making a horrific triple on the par-4 7th.
He only made one birdie on his way to a 40, as he looked like the golfer who spent most of 2019 on the other side of the ropes following a wrist injury.
But there were glimpses of the old Schwartzel on the back nine. The Schwartzel who became the first man to birdie the last four holes in the final at Augusta National to win the Masters in 2011. Four birdies and the first five holes saw him repair some of the damage from the opening nine, which has already put him on the back foot in his national open, which he desperately wants to win.
But he needn’t be too hard on himself after round one.
He shouldn’t expect to come back and be the player of old immediately. Even though he played so well at his beloved Leopard Creek, where he finished tied for third towards the end of last year, Schwartzel needs to give himself time to get his confidence and his rhythm back, which will help him to back himself with club in hand.
Schwartzel had just one top-10 finish in 2019 – a T-6 at the Puerto Rico Open in February after starting the year 79th on the Official World Rankings. He dropped outside the top 100 for the first time since 2008 following his wrist injury and went into the SA Open in the 226th position.
It’s a long way off his highest world ranking of sixth, which he achieved after finishing in a tie for fourth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in 2012.
But it’s something that he should be too worried about. Injuries happen, it’s sport, and now is the time for some perspective.
At his best, the man with one of the biggest grins on the PGA and European Tours is a potent ball-striker, while you also don’t win a Green Jacket if you can’t putt. But at the moment those elements haven’t quite come together yet.
He missed a birdie putt from three feet early on in his round following a fantastic iron shot, but on the back nine made a few top putts after a couple of mediocre approach shots.
But, sooner rather than later, those elements of his game, including his fantastic ability to scramble, will click again and he will storm up the rankings and compete for titles again.
But for now he doesn’t need to feel like he must hit every shot perfectly or put pressure on himself to find his best stuff. It will come. He is too good of a player for it not to happen.
Patience, bra Charl. Patience.
Photo: Shaun Roy/Sunshine Tour/Gallo Image