Golf

Solid start for Schwartzel

2011-09-03 06:59
Charl Schwartzel (Gallo Images)

Norton - Missing the first week of the PGA Tour's lucrative FedEx Cup playoff events left Charl Schwartzel with plenty of work to do but the move could ultimately reap rich reward for the Masters champion.

Schwartzel made his 2011 playoff debut in Friday's opening round of the Deutsche Bank Championship, and a fast start made his decision to skip The Barclays last week look wise in more ways than one.

A five-under-par 66, which included six birdies and a bogey, put the South African just one stroke off the first-round lead held by American Troy Matteson.

"It was just a solid round of golf," Schwartzel told reporters after recording two birdies in his last three holes at the TPC Boston. "I drove the ball well, made a lot of good iron shots and gave myself opportunities to make a few putts."

Schwartzel's strong start came after he spent valuable time at home in South Africa, resting up and working on his game.

He was ranked 21st in the FedEx Cup standings at the start of the playoffs and could afford to miss a week. His absence from the opening event eventually cost him just seven spots once The Barclays was completed.

"Last week I spent a bit of time in South Africa, just getting prepared for the last few events and it went well," he said. "I did some good practice and it seems like it's sort of paid off."

The break also spared Schwartzel from a wild week on the East Coast of the United States.

An earthquake centered in northern Virginia on Tuesday was felt up and down the region, including at The Barclays in New Jersey. Hurricane Irene then bore down on the area, forcing the playoff event to be shortened to 54 holes.

"I was sitting in South Africa in the sunshine and watching the guys struggle through the hurricanes and all the things happening out here," Schwartzel said.

"In that sense, it was maybe a good choice but, by missing an event, you do put yourself a little bit on the back foot."

There is probably only one way for Schwartzel to get off that back foot and become a factor in the race for the overall playoff title and its $10 million bonus.

"To win the FedEx Cup you basically need to win one of these events," the slim South African said. "I figured I'd take my chances in the three (events) coming up." So far, so good for Schwartzel.

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