Featured Golf News
Schwartzel Seeks Second Major in 2011
Charl Schwartzel seemingly came out of nowhere in the final round of this year's Masters. The 26-year-old became the third South African - after Gary Player and Trevor Immelman - to don a green jacket after closing with a stellar 6-under 66 to win by two strokes over two Aussies, Jason Day and Adam Scott.
The native of Johannesburg was aided by four birdies over the final four holes, finishing at 124-under 274 at Augusta National Golf Club. The win is his first and only in America, though Schwartzel has seven European Tour titles and five more on South Africa's Sunshine Tour.
Schwartzel is back in the same state where he won the Masters and is ready to tackle what's shaping up to be a daunting (7,467-yard par-70) Atlanta Athletic Club in this week's PGA Championship.
He will tee it up in Thursday's opening round with playing partners and the year's two other major winners, Rory McIlroy (U.S. Open) and Darren Clarke (British Open). "I've played lots of golf with both of them and really it's a nice position to be in," Schwartzel said Tuesday after a practice round at Atlanta AC.
The hole all the players are talking about this week is the 260-yard, par-3 15th. "Is that a par-3? I thought it was a par-4," Schwartzel said, drawing laughs from reporters. "What can you say? It's just a beast of a hole. It's long. It's actually quite a small green from that sort of distance.
"We played off the back (tees). The flag was in the front. I hit a 3-iron out of my shoes and it just flew to the front edge. It's going to be a tough hole," he added. "I don't think you're going to be too disappointed if you walk off with a 4. It's going to be just one of those holes where there's no bail-out. You've just got to get down and commit to it. It's going to be the same for everyone that plays it."
Here's what else the sweet-swinging South African, who finished ninth in the 2011 U.S. Open and 16th in the British Open, had to say during his session with the media on Tuesday.
MODERATOR: Masters champion Charl Schwartzel joining us at the 93rd PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club. This will be Charl's sixth PGA Championship, his best finish being a tied for 18th last year at Whistling Straits. Charl, welcome to Atlanta Athletic Club. And since the Masters, you tied for 9th at the U.S. Open, and you tied for 16th at the Open Championship. Pretty good major championship season for 2011.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, I've been feeling really comfortable in the majors. Every week that I've been there, my game has been good. And you know, after the win at the Masters, I just feel like every time I enter one of these major championships that I can compete in them and get a win out of them. I think you can see why the last couple majors I've played in, I've played much better.
MODERATOR: Have you had a chance to play a practice round, and if so, initial impressions, please, of the golf course here.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, I think I was the first out on Monday morning. We teed off at quarter to 7:00, and it was phenomenal. What I've heard was that the course has been closed for two weeks, and before that the members played on carpets for three weeks; so there was not a single divot on the fairway. It was amazing. You know, the fairways were as good as some of the greens we play on. It's just so much fun to play a golf course when it's in such good condition, and even the greens were just phenomenal. I like the course. The par-3s are really strong. You know, it's just a good major championship test.
Q. What did you think of the 265-yard par-3? Do you like those kind of holes and those kind of challenges?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Is that a par 3? I thought it was a par-4. (Laughter.) Yeah, I mean, what can you say? It's just a beast of a hole. It's long. It's actually quite a small green from that sort of distance. When we played, we played off the back. The flag was in the front, and we still - I hit a 3-iron out of my shoes, and it just flew to the front edge. It's going to be a tough hole. I don't think you're going to be too disappointed if you walk off with a 4. You know, it's going to be just one of those holes where there's no bail-out, and you've just got to get down and commit to it. It's going to be the same for everyone that plays it.
Q. Obviously a very different kind of layout than Augusta National, but in terms of condition, in terms of green speed and things like that, are there any kind of similarities, things that make you feel comfortable here even though you don't have experience on this golf course before this week?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, the speed of the greens are right up there. I thought the greens were comparable. They're really fast, and they're smooth. I've found playing on those fast greens good for me, felt that my stroke suited it, and I'm happy to have these greens at these speeds. You could maybe say that being back in the State of Georgia gives you a little feel of good memories. The course is completely different, but there's things to take out of it, being back here.
Q. Speaking of being back in Georgia, temperature outside might be a little bit different than the last time you were here. Do you feel prepared for the conditions, and how is that going to play a part in your preparation for the week?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, I think you've got to take it slowly. I think you should have done all your practicing before you got here. It's no time to go out on the range now and beat balls; you've just going to tire yourself. I think if you haven't found it by now you're not going to find it by Thursday. I think you've just got to pace yourself really well these next couple days so you're still strong when Sunday comes. That's probably the most important round we play. You know, it's going to be hot. It's just one of those things; you're going to have to drink a lot, keep hydrated. And you know, coming from South Africa, I prefer playing in the heat than the cold. I think it's a good thing it's warm for me.
Q. This is the first major in which spectators can bring cell phones in. Have you had any encounters with cell phones before, and what are your thoughts on that?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I mean, cell phones are becoming a thing of everyday life, so as long as the spectators understand that when we start playing a practice round when a shot doesn't mean a thing, it wouldn't affect you, so you wouldn't be bothered. But when you start the tournament comes, every single shot, there's so much importance on it. You can't afford to lose a single shot. When you are concentrating and focusing that hard, the slightest movement or noise does put you off, and a lot of times I don't think people actually realize that. As long as the people just pay attention to it and just - every single phone these days has got a silent mode; so put the thing on silent. That's about all I can say. People have got business to do, and if they bring their phones in, just go where it's not going to bother us to do it.
Q. You talked about how your confidence has grown at majors since the Masters. Has anything in everyday life changed for you since then? Are things completely different or just the same or what's it like for you now?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: You know, I think after I won and when I was the only major champion for the year before Rory won, you get a lot of attention where you would never have gotten; a lot of media requests, which is perfectly fine, and a lot of people that recognize you. So you become more in the eye of everyday life of people. As it's gone on, I don't know if I've just gotten used to it, but I think things have settled down a little bit. Like I said in the beginning, my biggest goal was to give my golf the attention that it needed, and I think I've sort of achieved that. I didn't get distracted too much, and I tried to please most people, but also just focus on my golf, and I think it's been good for me. So for me, it hasn't been a big distraction.
Q. Much to your manager's chagrin, people keep talking about everyone going for the Chubby Slam here. What's going on with that group? Can you explain why everyone has gotten so hot at the same time, and do you guys feed off each other a little bit?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It's amazing food at the ISM house. There's something in the food. Yeah, I think he's just a fantastic guy, and it's been great to be a part of the Chubby Slam so far. They do a fantastic job. They help us a lot, and I think he's waited a long time just to get a major champion, and all of a sudden it's sort of snowballed. He's had great players for a long time. All credit to him; he deserves it.
Q. He was saying earlier today that even though Lee Westwood isn't one of the guys in that stable that has a major win, a lot of credit for the success you guys might have had comes from the way Lee handles himself and the way he prepares out there. Do you all draw some kind of a -- I don't know, game plan from the way Lee has gone about doing his job here?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: You can say that maybe. Lee, obviously he deserves it. He puts in a lot of work. He's definitely good enough to win lots. Just to see a guy like that play, if someone were to ask me who impresses me the most, it would be Lee. When I play with him, it's just phenomenal. It's fantastic to see the way he hits the ball. I learn a lot from just watching him. But at the end of the day, it's an individual sport, and you've got to just -- you've got to do your own thing. I don't really know how else to answer it.
Q. The game has been kind of changing over the last couple of years. What are your thoughts now that Tiger Woods is back, and how do you foresee it? What are kind of your thoughts on the state of it, and what do you see for the future in the next year, two years, five years?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, I mean, there's a great bunch of youngsters coming through, almost a new generation, you could say. That's healthy for golf. Golf all over the world is getting stronger, you know, and it's just golf is getting promoted so much better all over the world. So it's bound to get stronger, and it's great. You know, having Tiger Woods back is fantastic, I think. He's one of the greatest players ever to play the game; if not arguably, people can argue. But the sport still needs him. I personally think it's - I don't know him well, but I think it's great to have him playing.
Q. To follow up on that a little bit, I see kids as young as 10, 12, 14, not only having swing coaches but mental coaches. At what age did you start getting a team like that together, and what are your thoughts on kids that age, 10, 12, having that sort of stable?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I probably don't quite agree with it. I felt, and I still think, most of the players that went on to be greats and went on to be there for a long time were all sort of natural. I personally feel - I've got nothing against coaches and psychology; I think there's a time and place for all of it. But at that young an age, I would say maybe a bit of coaching might be good just to teach someone the right basics from the start so you don't have to change things when you're older. But sometimes you can force a guy into it becoming a job at a younger age, and it doesn't have to be. It's still meant to be fun; it's still a game. It's a sport, and at that sort of age you need to go out and have some fun. The last thing you want is someone grinding some meaningful thing into your mind and showing you the right techniques. There's a bit of it, but it's a little young for that kind of thing.
Q. How old were you when you had your first coach?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, my dad was my coach. So he taught me from a very young age, four years old. And what I give a lot of credit to him is he never, ever forced me to do anything, but he did teach me the right grip from when I was four years old just to show me how to grip the club right, so it never became a problem for me when I was older. He showed me just the right kind of basics when I became older, so everything came naturally to me then, and it makes your life easy, and I wanted to play the game. He was never telling me to do things, and I feel that is probably the right way to do it.
Q. I believe you and Louis are playing and representing the World Cup for South Africa. Could you talk about that, and you're also missing out on the South African Open?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It's fantastic to play with Louis. We always said if we could choose someone, we would choose each other. It just comes from having a good friendship. And also playing for South Africa as juniors and amateurs; we won the Junior World Series in Japan together with two others. It's just sort of a step up now as professionals to play for South Africa and to represent. It's just something different from the everyday golf that we play, I think. And at that sort of event, you need someone that you can really relate to and feed off each other. You know, I think we're both really looking forward to it.
MODERATOR: As tradition has it at the PGA Championship, you'll be playing with the other two major champions of the year. Are you looking forward to that?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yes, I am. Once again, we've played lots of golf with both of them. And really, it is a nice position to be in, to be a part of the group.
Q. We talked a little bit about the length of that 265-yard par-4 as you called it. I've heard some different theories on how to change golf courses: Narrow the fairways, grow the rough. Just kind of what are some of your thoughts in terms of how to adjust courses to improve them?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: You know, I think my personal opinion, that there is too much emphasis on length on these golf courses lately. I still think that these golf courses that are the very old-style golf courses where there's a huge variety of shots that you've got to play; just not a driver on every single hole for 14 holes off the tee. Your best golf courses are still the ones where it makes you think off the tee; that you've got an option off say hitting a 5-wood off the tee for position, or really taking it on with a driver. It gives you a lot of variety, where courses like these that's long, it sort of takes away all of that thinking. You've just got to be so good with a driver and hit it on every single hole, and it almost becomes a slog, and sometimes very unexciting. That's sort of my opinion. I think there's got to be more variety to a golf course, not just length, length, length. Your best par-3s are not your 265-yard par-3s. Pebble Beach has a 110 yard par-3 down the hill, and lots of guys make lots of birdies and lots make mistakes on that little hole, and that's very exciting. That's my opinion.
MODERATOR: Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel, thank you very much.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.