It seems only fitting that Charl Schwartzel is leading after the first round of the WGC-CA Championship, considering the 25-year-old from South Africa couldn’t even get a spot in last week’s Honda Classic.
Schwartzel was refused a sponsor exemption due to an influx of foreign and young, better-known players also vying for those spots. So the winner of two events on the European Tour this season decided he would try to Monday qualify, not something the 35th-ranked player in the world does on a typical Monday.
Schwartzel made eight birdies but still didn’t qualify, so he took advantage of his friendship with fellow countryman Ernie Els and stayed with the Big Easy in his North Palm Beach home, playing two times at the Bear’s Club and twice at Seminole Golf Club just up the road.
After four rounds and countless hours at the practice facilities at the Bear’s Club, Schwartzel announced to his manager Chubby Chandler at the end of last week that he was ready to play.
The only unforeseen circumstance for Schwartzel at that point was the health of his caddie, Wynad Stander. Like many on Tour over the last couple of weeks, Stander caught the bug and it was unclear if he could give it a go.
He decided to try, and one of the Schwartzel’s managers followed the group around for all 18 holes to be at the ready if Stander had to drop out. Stander made it to the end, and now Schwartzel is leading for the first time ever on the PGA Tour.