Former US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel says he is confident about winning his first SA Open Championship title next year.
The Sunshine-European tour co-sanctioned tournament will be held at the Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale, Ekurhuleni from January 7-10.
Schwartzel is yet to lift the trophy of one of the world’s oldest national golf championships, South Africa’s flagship event on the Sunshine Tour.
The SA Open will be in its 105th year. It will host, among other prominent contestants, erstwhile world number one Ernie Els as its player-host with his two charities – Els for Autism and the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation – as beneficiaries.
The 31-year-old Schwartzel, who was born in Vereeniging, Gauteng, and is now based in Florida in the US, where he also competes in the US PGA Tour, is determined to make an impression. He has already notched up nine victories in Europe.
The last titles he won were the Alfred Dunhill Championship which he captured for two years in a row – 2012 and 2013 – at the Leopard Creek Country Club in Malelane, Mpumalanga. The SA Open mantle, however, has eluded him.
Schwartzel finished the contest tied for second with Frenchman Grégory Havret in 2005 in an event that was then called the SAA Open. Countryman Tim Clark won it by six strokes at the Durban Country Club in KwaZulu-Natal.
This year’s edition saw Schwartzel again being the runner-up, losing to Englishman Andy Sullivan in a play-off.
Schwartzel was one of the guests this week during the official launch of the showdown at Glendower. He admitted to being particularly passionate about the contest.
“The SA Open means a lot to me by virtue of its rich history. I am determined to win it because I have trained very hard for this edition. I can’t afford to miss the trophy this time around,” said Schwartzel.
He said Glendower would be a difficult course to play because the roughs around the greens would not be deep as a result of a lack of rainfall this summer.
“This will make the going tough, especially for European-based players who are not used to such dry conditions. But I know how I will attack the course,” he said.
Schwartzel, who is ranked 54th in the world, said he was likely to forgo key co-sanctioned competitions next month to prepare for the SA Open.
Ten South Africans have won the competition since 2002 (see box).
Els said he was looking forward to continued work with the Sunshine Tour to achieve “our shared vision” of growing the SA Open.
“I’m delighted to be part of an initiative that is putting a great tournament back on the map,” he said.