Injured Schwartzel takes calculated risk

Charl Schwartzel, of South Africa, during the first round of the U.S. Open Championship.

Charl Schwartzel, of South Africa, during the first round of the U.S. Open Championship.

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Avondale, LA - TPC Louisiana

7:01:08 AM ET. 04/24/2014




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SAN FRANCISCO – Everyone who made the 36-hole cut has a chance to win the 112th U.S. Open, but one player is willing to put his health and career in semi-jeopardy to compete this weekend at The Olympic Club.

Charl Schwartzel came to San Francisco with health concerns, and as the week progressed the South African's issues worsened and almost forced his withdrawal earlier in the week.

It all started last Wednesday at home when Schwartzel inured himself, though he's not sure how. His rib or joint underneath his left arm was in pain and started a chain reaction of injuries, causing Schwartzel to find a hospital for a magnetic resonance imaging test Thursday night. The MRI revealed a tear on the right side of his abdomen.

“I just sat down, and it felt like I couldn't breathe," Schwartzel said last week's original injury. “I couldn't pick up a club. It wasn't very good. But everyone that I went to and X‑rays said that it can't get worse, so I can have injections to try to numb it and swing.'

Refusing injections, Schwartzel knew that he could deal with the pain. To compensate for the injury, Schwartzel altered his swing a bit, and that created an issue on the left side of his back. After Thursday’s first-round 73, the South African had to make a trip to the hospital, where an MRI showed a slight tear in his abdomen.

The abdominal tear is now the biggest issue for Schwartzel, who thinks that after a second-round 70 and 143 total, which leaves him four shots off the lead and tied for ninth, his game is good enough to win this week.

“I've been playing so good that I fancy my chances around this golf course,” said Schwartzel, 27, the 2011 Masters champion. “It's not a golf course of perfection. You play clever and get the ball down the fairways, know how to shape shots, you can get in with a chance.”

Early this week, Schwartzel barely could hit balls, but slowly was getting better until Wednesday’s practice round, when he reinjured or pinched a nerve on the last two holes.

The re-injury almost forced Schwartzel out of the championship. With his name taken off the standard bearer's scoreboard because officials thought he couldn’t play, the South African hit a couple of balls on the range and then posted a 3-over opening score.

Schwartzel received physio treatment on the golf course during most of the day.

“Every shot, every hole," Schwartzel said of Thursday's physio routine. “So I just sort of drifted around the golf course. Today, it was sore, but I had a bit of movement, but every single shot was pain.”

The tear that doctors discovered Thursday after his round will not get better, Schwartzel said, until he is able to rest and put the sticks away for a while.

According to Schwartzel’s doctors, he could make the tear bigger with continued play and need months to recover.

“So this is now a predicament,” Schwartzel said. “I figured I can still win this tournament, so I want to keep going.”

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