Charl seeks Joburg hat-trick
Charl Schwartzel (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Charl Schwartzel will go in search of a unique hat-trick of victories when the two-time defending champion tees it up in the Joburg Open on Thursday.
The co-sanctioned European and Sunshine Tour event will be played at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington golf club over two courses, the west and the (longer) east layouts.
While Schwartzel used his victory in the Joburg Open as a catalyst to go on and win the Masters in April last season, this year he will relish returning to an event where has had tremendous success.
"Last year was a big year for me," Schwartzel said.
"I gained a lot of confidence on top of what I had, and it's always nice to pitch up at tournaments as Masters champion."
Despite teeing up as favourite to win his third successive Joburg Open, Schwartzel believed the tournament would be more wide open than most people suggested.
"You've got a whole bunch of guys - George Coetzee, Thomas Aiken, Retief (Goosen)," he said.
"Retief's playing really good golf at the moment, along with the guys who got their cards at [Sunshine] Tour school.
"The guys are all in top form from playing a lot late in the year, and those are the guys you have to watch out for.
"The guys coming off long breaks take a bit of time to get back into it."
Schwartzel dispelled the notion that the shorter west course was easier, saying it was just as much a test as the east layout.
"It's easy when you put your ball in play, and the same with the east course," he said.
"You have to hit fairways. If you eliminate the mistakes, there's always birdies you're going to be making."
Schwartzel was hesitant to say the course favoured longer players like himself.
"I actually hit more three-woods off tees than drivers, just putting the ball in play," he said.
"I am fortunate to be able to hit it far enough to hit a three-wood.
"It is a long golf course, and it's going to play even longer with it being wet, so I think if you can hit it a bit further you're going to have an advantage."
He will play his first practice round on Wednesday in the pro-am, but Schwartzel said he had already looked at the course.
"The golf course is always in good shape.
"From what I saw the greens are good, but we're going to have to watch the rain because the weather can be a big factor here.
"I'm looking forward to playing it. It's a golf course I know well and it's one of the tournaments I look forward to every year."