Schwartzel credits father for Masters title
AUGUSTA, Ga. – The swing built under his father’s guidance and practiced on his family’s farm held up under the pressure of Masters Sunday and gave Charl Schwartzel his first green jacket.
Schwartzel’s father, George, was a former pro golfer who ran the family farm near Johannesburg after his career came to an end. He passed along his passion to his boys, Charl and Attie, and taught them the importance of sound mechanics. When not playing Maccaulvei Golf Club, they would hit balls in a field on the farm.
“He put endless time into (my swing),” Schwartzel said about his father. “It was never an effort for him. He made it very simple for me, which I believe is a fantastic recipe.
“As simple as possible under pressure works.”
That was especially true Sunday. Schwartzel birdied his final four holes for a 14-under 274 that gave him a two-shot victory over Jason Day and Adam Scott, both of whom were trying to become the first Australian to win the Masters.
Schwartzel was the last man standing on a hot, humid day at Augusta National. His caddie, Greg Hearmon, said his man had perfect yardages down the stretch.
“The ball was going a long way today,” Hearmon said. “We were clubbing according to heat.”
There was plenty of heat to withstand on this wild Sunday. Eight players held at least a share of the lead Sunday, including Tiger Woods, who threw himself into the mix with a 5-under 31 on the front nine. Missed short putts stalled his run, though.
Schwartzel clinched his win with birdie putts of about 8, 15, 12 and 14 feet on the final four holes.
“It sounds pretty simple if you think about it like that,” Schwartzel said after describing those birdies.
The simple life that Schwartzel prefers may be harder to live, at least in the short term, now that he has won on golf’s sacred grounds. Phil Mickelson slipped the green jacket on Schwartzel’s shoulders 50 years after Gary Player became the first South African to win the Masters.
Schwartzel took inspiration from a victory at last year’s British Open by good friend and countryman Louis Oosthuizen. It was a win that made Schwartzel believe that winning a major is possible.
Said South Africa’s Trevor Immelman, the 2008 Masters champion, “You have to be strong mentally, you have to hit fairways, you have to hit greens, you have to make key putts. The more he could’ve kept that kind of mindset, the better he was going to do today.”
Schwartzel seemed the steadiest on this final round. After a wild start that included a long chip-in from across the first green and a holed sand wedge for eagle on No. 3, Schwartzel made 10 consecutive pars between Nos. 5-14 before those final four birdies.
“He was so calm, and so relaxed,” Hearmon said. Schwartzel credited his father for his ability to remain calm as the roars arose all around him, ironic for a man that likes working on his family farm and piloting his own plane because he enjoys quiet and solitude.
“Pressure is something that you learn,” Schwartzel said. “You have to really try and force yourself to stay in the present, which is really difficult around here. There’s so many people and so many roars that go up.
“You’ve got to breathe. Sometimes you forget to breathe, you know?”
George Schwartzel remains his son’s only teacher. Charl seeks advice from his father only when he’s home in South Africa. His father doesn’t travel outside their home country often, and they don’t use email to trade tips and video. Schwartzel likes it that way.
“I don’t make it complicated,” he said. “It’s difficult enough as it is.”
So is Augusta National on April’s second Sunday. It’s a course where experience is supposed to be paramount. Schwartzel was making just his second Masters start – he tied for 30th last year – but had a legend’s advice in his ear. Six-time Masters champion Jack Nicklaus shared his strategies for playing Augusta National with Schwartzel at lunch at last year’s Els for Autism charity golf tournament.
“We started talking about hunting, and he took me through the way he played 18 holes at Augusta,” Schwartzel said.
They’ll be able to continue that discussion at next year’s Champions’ Dinner, thanks to Schwartzel and his simple swing that withstood all Augusta National’s challenges.