Posted on: February 22, 2012 11:59 am
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:54 pm

Accenture matches about aptitude, altitude

By Steve Elling 

MARANA, Ariz. -- According to the host venue's website, certain points of the Dove Mountain course are located at 3,200 feet above sea level. For those who watched the Accenture Match Play Championship's final pairing last year, when it snowed and hailed, that's certainly no news flash.

For a PGA Tour player, the territorial elements can create unique environmental issues. Or, in the case of this particular track, three of them.

Players teeing off early face the very real prospect that the ball will feel like a piece of desert rock. Temperatures overnight routinely dive down close to freezing. The first matches Wednesday started at 7:25 a.m. local time.

"It's so cold, the ball might even go shorter," Charl Schwartzel said.

So players have to plan around the environmental issues more than usual. Rory McIlroy intentionally waited to play his practice round Tuesday to that it was conducted during the same time frame as his first-round match, for instance. Because, as the weather warms up, the ball can really start to fly. The desert air is notoriously dry, which means the ball takes off like a rocket, especially at this altitude.

"I mean, all the par-5s are reachable," Schwartzel said.

They are listed on the card Wednesday at 573, 579, 599 and 583 yards. The course overall is listed at around 7,800 yards but can play 5-10 percent shorter, morning coldness and occasional winds notwithstanding.

Or even shorter than that, for some.

"It actually depends on how far you hit it in the air," McIlroy said.

Or how hot it gets. The forecast calls for a zero-percent chance of rain and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 70s.

"I think when it gets warmer, which it's meant to, and the adrenalin kicks in, it's close to 10 percent," defending champion and world No. 1 Luke Donald said of the flighting disparity versus sea level tracks like, say, Pebble Beach or Riviera.

"You take the sum of the elevations and the 10 percent difference, suddenly at 250 yards you're hitting a 4 iron, when usually that's a pretty good 3-wood for me. It takes a little bit of getting used to. [Caddie] John [McLaren] and I have done a pretty good job in the last couple of years."

Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:27 pm

Can Charl hop, skip and jump to FedEx crown?

NORTON, Mass. -- Nobody even needed to ask the question.

Yeah, PGA Tour rookie or not, Charl Schwartzel knew the playoffs history.

The reigning Masters champion skipped the first round of the FedEx Cup sweepstakes last week, knowing full well that Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods each had missed the series opener in the past and eventually won the series title and $10 million bonus, anyway.

In the midst of a killer scheduling stretch, he elected to roll the dice as far as his placement on the points list.

"I sat at home in South Africa and watched you guys dodge hurricanes," he said.

No, he wasn't kidding. The Barclays got swacked last week by an earthquake and Hurricane Irene. He was safe and sound and sleeping back in his homeland.

As a member of both the PGA and European tours, that was the only smart move, he said. When he shot an opening 66 at TPC Boston on Friday, he looked all the wiser.

"I was always OK with the decision," he said. "My end of the year is very busy. I'd have been on the road for 13 weeks in a row."

As it stands, he's still a very solid 28th in points. When asked if he would have bailed on Barclays if rules required him to play all four FedEx series events, he nearly laughed.

"No," he said, "that would have been stupid. But Jim Furyk and Tiger Woods both won and skipped a week."

When he finished in the morning, the young South African had the lowest score on the board. After signing his card, he was immediately asked to submit to a tour drug test.

"It happens every time I play well," he groused. "It's really not random."

Category: Golf
Posted on: June 1, 2011 3:57 pm

Busing tables, bustin' on Schwartzel

DUBLIN, Ohio -- Ever since he won the Masters in April, South Africa's Charl Schwartzel has been asked a bazillion questions.

A few of them might surprise you.

Like, "Hey, bud, can you freshen up this gin and tonic?"

Playing this week at the Memorial Tournament, Schwartzel said he packed the green jacket he was given six weeks ago for winning at Augusta National. The Masters winner is allowed to take the jacket off the club grounds for a year. After that, it must remain on the Augusta property.

"I take it pretty much with me everywhere," he said. "I'm not going to wear it just everywhere, but it's nice to have a look at it."

He was asked to wear it to a gala honoring the top players on the European Tour, staged last week at the BMW PGA Championship near tour headquarters outside London. Which is where the story gets downright funny.

"It was a black-tie event, and I'm dressed up in a green jacket," he said. "Most people thought I was a waiter."

Posted on: April 8, 2011 1:18 pm
Edited on: April 8, 2011 1:34 pm

Schwartzel gets by with help from friends

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Charl Schwartzel freely admits that he is still a babe in the woods as it relates to Masters experience, and that nobody can dial in the nuances of the famous Augusta National layout in a hurry.

However, it never hurts to have friends.

Schwartzel, ranked 29th in the world, played in his first Masters last year, shortly after he received an impromptu walk-through over lunch from none other than six-time Masters winner Jack Nicklaus.

Schwartzel, 26, was playing in the annual autism fundraiser hosted by Ernie Els in March of 2010 when he was seated next to Nicklaus at lunch. From there, somehow, Nicklaus launched into a play-by-play account of how to tour the most famous course in the world.

"I mean, he took me through every single hole the way he used to play it when he played," Schwartzel said. "You can't get much better advice than that."

So far, so good. Schwartzel shot 69-71, and when he finished Friday, he was tied for seventh.

"We were having lunch, I don't know how it started," Schwartzel said of his crash tutorial from the 18-time major winner. "We started talking about hunting and he took me through the way he played 18 holes at Augusta."

Schwartzel was trying to remember every word and a friend, Johan Rupert, was seated nearby and doing likewise.

"I tried to, but  I was in such awe," Schwartzel said. "Like I say, you can't get better advice than that. So, I've had lots of advice from people, but you have to experience it for yourself, and that will take a couple of years."

He also got a great tip from Els, his South African friend and mentor, in a practice round this week. Playing the 18th, Els hit a chip shot directly at the flag and the ball rolled off the front of the green.

Schwartzel had a putt on a similar line and must have played 20 feet of break, and two-putted for a closing par.

"You need lots of experience out here to win on this golf course," he said. "You've got to play so different to others; the way this golf course plays, you need lots of patience. 

"Sometimes you have to accept that a bogey is a good score, if you hit it in the wrong place. If you try and be a hero, you're going to be no hero -- you're going to make big numbers.

"So, treat it with respect."

Category: Golf
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