Charl: Now I can focus again
Ohio - Life has finally settled back into something approaching normal for Charl Schwartzel after the dizzying whirlwind of media attention he faced following his spectacular Masters victory in April.
At this week's Memorial tournament, the South African will be making only his second start on the U.S. PGA Tour since his Augusta National triumph and he is eager to tee off in Thursday's opening round.
"I'm just excited to get back and start playing again now," world number 10 Schwartzel told reporters at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Wednesday. "I haven't been playing too much but my game feels good.
"Winning a tournament like that (the Masters) obviously does change quite a few things but they've been all good for me. I've made a few adjustments and now I want to come out here and win a few more (tournaments)."
Schwartzel birdied the last four holes at Augusta National to clinch his first major title by two shots. He became the third South African to win the coveted green jacket and was immediately catapulted into the media limelight.
"It did take quite a bit out of me, just there being such a big hype about it," he said of his Masters aftermath. "Now a month-and-a-half afterwards things are settling down a bit and I feel I can start focusing on my golf again."
Among the various accolades he has received since his major breakthrough, Schwartzel was especially touched by the congratulatory letters sent to him by golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.
"Mr. Nicklaus wrote me a note in person, in his own handwriting. It wasn't even typed. The handwriting was really bad," Schwartzel said while breaking into a broad grin.
"I received it two weeks after the Masters. That's really special to me. I've actually framed it. And Arnold Palmer also sent me a letter, which he signed. They didn't have to do those sorts of things."
One of the many perks of winning the Masters is that the reigning champion is permitted to keep the cherished green jacket for the next 12 months and Schwartzel has barely let it out of his sight.
"I take it pretty much with me everywhere," said the South African, who missed the cut in the European Tour's PGA Championship at Wentworth last week.
"If you get to keep it only for a year ... you've got to pretty much enjoy it. I'm not going to wear it just everywhere, but it's nice to have a look at it."
Asked when he had last donned the jacket in public, Schwartzel replied: "It was the European Tour awards dinners last week, and they actually asked me to wear it.
"It was a black tie event, and I'm dressed up in a green jacket. Most people thought I was a waiter," he added as the interview room erupted in laughter.
Schwartzel will tee off in Thursday's first round at Muirfield Village in a high-profile grouping with four-times champion Phil Mickelson of the U.S. and British world no 1 Luke Donald.