It was a sweetheart of a putting display for Charl Schwartzel on Valentine’s Day on Sunday as he cruised to a comfortable eight-stroke victory in the Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club.
He carded a final-round seven-under-par 63 for a tournament total of 16-under-par, which put Dane Jeff Winther a long way back in second place on eight-under, and South African Anthony Michael in third a further two strokes back on six-under-par.
“You know the first three rounds I gave myself so many chances. And if I had the stroke I had today, it probably would have been my best tournament ever,” said Schwartzel.
“But I just worked hard the whole week on it and last night we found something, myself and Sherylle (Calder, the ‘eye doctor’). We got something right and I had a good feeling for today. From the word go, I made some really nice putts.”
There were some that were more than ‘nice’. He rolled in one 30-footer and another 35-footer, each for birdie, on the two par-threes on the homeward nine, and those alone were worth gold to the 2011 Masters champion who felt frustrated at not converting all the chances his brilliant iron-play gave him all week.
“The first three days I was as blind as a bat,” he said. “The last day I was eagle eyes. I couldn’t miss. You know it’s nice to put everything together. It’s felt like I’ve been playing really, really well this week. It’s just frustrating when you don’t putt very well and you don’t convert and to make the putts when it counts, that’s even more satisfying.”
He started the day just one shot ahead of Zander Lombard, but the youngster was not able to get the kind of run going that he had in the third round. Lombard bogeyed the first after a nervous tee shot, and three more bogeys and two doubles were just too much for his four birdies to overcome.
Winther, on the other hand, raced around in six-under 64, and not even a bogey-six on the 12th could hide his delight. “I made an eight there in the first round, so you could say I took my revenge,” he laughed.
Michael produced by far the most polished performance of his career since his share of second in the 2010 Alfred Dunhill Championship, and it represented the culmination of a lot of hard work. “I’m pleased it all held together on the big stage for me,” said Michael. “It’s been coming for some time, and it really gives me a confidence boost for the season ahead.”
Schwartzel’s win was also a confidence-booster for a man who would not seem to need one. “The difference between the world number one, Jordan Spieth, and the rest is that he’s the best putter in the world,” he said.
“And now that I have found something which means I don’t have to rely on guesswork when I’m putting, and which means I can trust the lines I choose – well, I’m excited for the year ahead.
“I’ve got a very good feeling about this year and that was even before this tournament. Everything is sort of falling into place. I’ve worked really hard leading up to this and it’s just been feeling good. Everything has got some really good signs so I’m excited.”