Charl Schwartzel, a born and bred Joburger, is wearing a green jacket today, as the latest winner of the prestigious US Masters golf champion.
JOBURG’S two-time Joburg Open champion, Charl Schwartzel, added the 2011 US Masters to his tally of career wins in Augusta on 10 April, sinking a birdie putt on the penultimate hole, and so earning the famous Green Jacket.
An elated Charl Schwartzel after winning the 2011 Joburg OpenAn elated Charl Schwartzel after winning the 2011 Joburg Open (Photo: Enoch Lehung, City of Johannesburg)Schwartzel shot final round 66, six under par to win by two shots. He finished on 14 under par, becoming the first player ever to birdie the final four holes. It was only his second appearance at Augusta.
“There are so many roars that go on around Augusta, especially the back nine. It echoes through those trees. Every single hole you walk down someone has done something. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking at the leader board,” Schwartzel remarked after the victory.
After winning this year’s Joburg Open in January, Schwartzel became the first South African golfer to win consecutive titles in a co-sanctioned Order of Merit event on the PGA European Tour and Sunshine Tour. The Joburg Open is organised by the City of Joburg and is the first tournament of the year on the European circuit to stake a claim towards the Race to Dubai.
Yesterday, Schwartzel birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes to go to 13 under par. He took a one shot lead at the final hole, where he finished off his fourth consecutive birdie putt. He shot rounds of 69, 71, 68 and 66 and won the title on the 50th anniversary of Gary Player’s victory. He was the first international to win the tournament.
Ahead of tee off, Schwartzel was already a favourite to scoop the title, despite tough opponents in former world champ Tiger Woods, close contender Rory McIlroy, compatriots Ernie Els and Louis Oosthuizen, Australian Geoff Ogilvy and England’s Luke Donald.
Born and bred in Joburg, Schwartzel’s first professional victory was the Dunhill Championship in 2005.
His win at the season ending Vodacom Tour Championship took him into the top 100 in the official world golf rankings for the first time. In 2006, he finished the season placed 18th on the Order of Merit and reached 57th in the world rankings. He took first place on the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit for the third consecutive year in 2007. In 2008, he won the Madrid Masters, and he claimed the Africa Open last year.
Schwartzel is the second South African in nine months to win a major title. “I’ve seen it so many times sitting at home, guys walking up the 18th. Just walking up it was such a special feeling. I only had a one-shot lead, so you don’t want to get too excited about it; you’ve still got to win the golf tournament. But it just really felt good,” Schwartzel said.
The win makes Schwartzel only the third South African Masters winner after three-time champion Gary Player and Trevor Immelman. He is the first Masters champion in its 75-year history to finish with four straight birdies, giving him a 6-under 66 for the best final round by a winner in 22 years.
South Africans have now won two of the last three majors, after Oosthuizen’s victory at St Andrew’s. Schwartzel has won seven other times worldwide, with the Masters win taking his career earnings to more than £7,06-million (about R76-million).
The win improves Schwartzel’s world rankings, which sat at 29 before tee-off and will now be at 11. Through his wins, he has earned an exemption on the European Tour until 2018 and a lifetime entry to the Masters.
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