AUGUSTA, Ga. – Experience is an asset at Augusta National. Charl Schwartzel is only playing here for the second time, but he has advice from the Masters’ greatest competitor on his side.
Schwartzel, 26, shot 71 Friday to finish two rounds at 4-under 140. He finished 30th in his Masters debut last year.
Jack Nicklaus shared his copious and invaluable inside knowledge of all Augusta National’s nooks and crannies during lunch with Schwartzel at last year’s Els For Autism Golf Challenge in Florida.
“We started talking about hunting and he took me through the way he played 18 holes at Augusta,” Schwartzel said.
Among the insights Nicklaus, a six-time Masters champion, shared with Schwartzel: don’t aim outside the bunkers on the par-3 12th hole. That way a shot hit over the green will not end up in the bushes behind the green.
Schwartzel used advice from another major champion to finish his round Friday with a par. On the 18th hole he was faced with one of those parabolic putts you can encounter at Augusta National. He played 25 feet of break on a birdie putt of about the same length to set up an easy par.
Earlier in the week, Schwartzel watched Ernie Els, his mentor, hit a chip shot from a similar position during a practice round. Els hit his ball toward the hole, only to have it roll off the green.
“If I don’t play with him, I probably would have putted it at the hole,” Schwartzel said. Instead he two-putted for par.
Augusta National is one of those places where even accomplished players like Schwartzel, a six-time winner on the European Tour, can learn plenty from legends.
“It’s definitely one of those courses where you’ll keep learning every year you come back,” Schwartzel said. “It’s not a course you’re going to master after a couple rounds.”