By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Granted, those two closing bogeys hurt. But Charl Schwartzel knew better than to let the frustration linger.
After all, his 69 was one of just six sub-par rounds at Merion on Saturday. He'll play in the penultimate group on Sunday trailing the leader, Phil Mickelson, by one stroke and with a chance to win his second major.
"I think whenever you shoot an under par on Saturday at the U.S. Open, you can't be too disappointed," Schwartzel said. "There's a few easy holes out there that you got to take advantage of, which I did. And then you've got the hard ones, which are where you come in and finish on.
"So you're going to get some and you're going to give some. So anything under par is fantastic here."
Schwartzel, who won the 2011 Masters, knows the final five holes, which are currently the fifth, fourth, ninth, seventh and toughest, will undoubtedly determine the champion on Sunday evening.
"I reckon if you can pull through it there in level par, if you're somewhere one or two off the lead or leading, you would be say worst case in a playoff," he said. "Or if you're tied or something if you play those few level, you would be pretty unlucky not to win."
Schwartzel, who is bidding to join Gary Player, Ernie els and Retief Goosen as U.S. Open champs from South Africa, is 2 over on the stretch this week. He thinks that owning a Green Jacket will be a plus on Sunday when every shot hit will be "really intense," Schwartzel said.
"It helps a lot to know that, as you said, I've got a major under my belt, so I don't have to worry about getting the first one," he said. "Obviously you want to get more and more and more, but that monkey is off the shoulder, so I can go ahead and concentrate on trying to finish off a golf tournament."
Charl Schwartzel shot a 70 in the first round of the U.S. Open. (Cannon/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ARDMORE, Pa. -- Even if he does say so himself, Charl Schwartzel is pretty good at Angry Birds.
He had some unexpected time to practice the game on his iPhone, too, when the first round of the U.S. Open was delayed for three hours and 32 minutes as a thunderstorm blew through this Philadelphia suburb.
When he got back on the golf course just after noon, Schwartzel proceeded to chip in for his third straight birdie at the 15th hole. The South African, who started on the 11th hole, couldn't quite coax it home but his round of 70 nonetheless left him just three strokes off the lead.
Schwartzel said his three bogeys all came after he missed fairways. The rough at Merion is extremely thick and lush after 7 inches of rain, and he wasn't able to hit more than a 9-iron out.
"It's a lot tougher than what they say it is," the former Masters champ said of the classic layout. "There's a lot of holes that are very penalizing."
Schwartzel admitted the delay was a bit of a momentum-killer, too.
"I felt pretty good before the break," he said. "But, you know, it is what it is."
Even though Merion was wet and relatively short by modern standards at 6,996 yards, Schwartzel wasn't one of the players who expected an abundance of low rounds.
"I never thought there was going to be a lot of birdies," he said. "Even the practice rounds, it's tough. Everyone was talking about the length of it, it's short. But the holes that are short, you're hitting 5 irons on the tee. There's nothing short about it."
After making bogey on two of his first four holes, Charl Schwartzel eagles the fifth hole to get back to 5 under.
DUBLIN, Ohio -- While everyone was struggling to digest that 44 Tiger Woods shot on his opening nine holes Saturday morning, there was a change at the top of the leaderboard during the third round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
Charl Schwartzel, who came back out Saturday morning and birdied his last two holes in the second round, has continued the same solid play in the third. He has birdied both par 5s on the front nine, on putts of 14 and 11 feet, to move into the lead at 10 under.
Bill Haas, who set the pace through 36 holes, missed a 7-footer to save par from the greenside bunker at the fourth hole and is tied with Matt Kuchar at 8 under. Kuchar, who ranks third in the FedExCup, birdied the fourth from 12 feet and made another birdie from 5 feet at the seventh hole.
Matt Jones has made three birdies in his first 11 holes on Saturday and is alone in fourth at 6 under. Kevin Chappell, Bubba Watson and Kyle Stanley are tied at 5 under while J.J. Henry is 4 under through 16 holes, as well as for the tournament, tied with Davis Love III, Pat Perez and Robert Karlsson.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Truth be told, Charl Schwartzel probably wasn't too disappointed when the second round of the Memorial Tournament was suspended for the third and final time Friday evening.
The South African certainly wasn't striking the ball in the blustery conditions the way he did on Thursday when he hit all but one fairway and two greens. His putter wasn't as cooperative, either.
So Schwartzel lost the lead -- and then some -- as he made the turn in 38 and bogeyed the 10th hole, to boot. He did manage two birdies before the third suspension hit but still trailed Bill Haas by three strokes when he headed to the hotel.
"Yesterday we had some tough conditions, everyone did," Schwartzel recalled. "But it was very difficult to actually make birdies, I found, especially if you get going the wrong way in the beginning. It felt like I was back-footed most of the day yesterday."
Schwartzel was playing the 16th hole when the horn sounded Friday evening. He made the most of the new day on Saturday, though, when he made a 12-footer for birdie at the 17th hole and added a 4-footer at No. 18 to finish off a 71 that pulled him within a stroke of Hass.
"I thought if I could somehow get one back and get my round back to even, I'd be very happy and managed to make two, coming up 17 and 18," Schwartzel said. "I'm very pleased with the way it turned out."
Schwartzel will play with Haas and Kyle Stanley in Saturday's final group, teeing off No. 1 at 11:30 a.m. as tournament officials rush to beat approaching thunderstorms. Schwartzel actually expected conditions to be a little easier than they were on Saturday when he returned to finish his round.
"But the winds are really up," he said.
Schwartzel posted his second third-place finish of the season two weeks ago at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Those are his best finishes in the 35 PGA TOUR events the South African has played since he won the 2011 Masters.
"I've been working on the putting," said Schwartzel, who leads the field in distance of putts made this week. "Yesterday I felt it was definitely moving in the right direction. If I can just keep playing the way I am, giving myself chances and the putter kicks in like it did the first day or even half of that, it would be great."
Charl Schwartzel makes birdie on the fourth hole during the first round of the Memorial Tournament.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
DUBLIN, Ohio -- When Charl Schwartzel returns to Muirfield Village in October to play in the Presidents Cup what Nick Price, the captain of the International Team, says will be gospel.
On Thursday, though, during the first round of the Memorial Tournament, Schwartzel decided to heed his own advice.
Schwartzel had sought the counsel of Price and assistant captain Mark McNulty earlier this week to cure some putting ills. But when push came to shove on his fourth hole Thursday, the former Masters champ went back to his old way of doing things -- and he was rewarded with four straight birdies on the way to a 65 that gave Schwartzel the lead.
Since the Masters, Schwartzel has been extending the left index finger of his right hand down the shaft of his putter. After talking with Price and McNulty this week, though, he decided to go back to a more conventional grip without the extension. He also opted to move the ball slightly forward in his stance.
When Schwartzel three-putted the 13th hole from 7 feet, though, he decided it was time for a change. Birdie putts of 10, 6, 24 and 7 feet fell on his next four holes and he was off to the races -- eventually opening up a one-stroke advantage over Scott Piercy.
"I thought I'm going to do what they say and go back to a normal grip," Schwartzel said. "And it just didn't feel very comfortable. It felt really shaky. I switched back to my finger down the shaft and sort of changed the ball position like Mark said and that felt comfortable.
"As you know, putting is all about comfort at the end of the day."
Schwartzel's putting wasn't the only positive on Thursday as he hit all but one fairway and two greens in regulation. "Today was one of those where I really did flush it," he said.
The negative? That 8-iron he dumped in the greenside bunker at the par-3 eighth hole, his 17th of the day. He blasted out over the green, chipped back on and two-putted for double bogey but got one back at the next hole when he drained a 13-footer for par.
"The birdie on the last definitely will make my evening a lot better," Schwartzel said.
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Former Masters champ Charl Schwartzel bounced back from a double bogey on his next-to-last hole with a 13-foot birdie putt that earned him the early lead at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
The double bogey at the eighth hole stopped a string of four straight birdies but Schwartzel still finished with a 65 that left him one stroke ahead of Scott Piercy. Piercy went on a birdie run of his own, making five straight starting at No. 4 on the way to a 66.
"The birdie on the last definitely will make my evening a lot better," Schwartzel said. "I felt like I played really well, just ... sort of ticking the ball over and got it to 8 under. Just had a bad one on No. 8, made a double. And that was the very worst I played all day."
Charl Schwartzel hits his approach shot to 10 feet and sinks the putt for birdie on the par-5 fifth hole during the first round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- Charl Schwartzel's first competitive round at the TPC Four Seasons Resort course went pretty well.
Actually, better than that.
Schwartzel, making his first start in the HP Byron Nelson Championship, opened with a bogey-free 7-under 63, just two shots off the old course record -- but three shots off the new one set by Keegan Bradley, who opened with a 60 on Thursday.
Schwartzel won't complain about being in second place, though. He knows having a morning tee time on Thursday was a huge advantage after severe weather the night before dropped 1-1/2 inches of rain on the course, softening up the greens and allowing for players to fire at the pins. Without any morning winds, TPC Four Seasons was left virtually defenseless.
"You couldn't ask for much better (conditions)," the South African said. "... Seems like you don't get many of those opportunities, so being out here first was a bit of an advantage."
The 63 ties for Schwartzel's low round on the PGA TOUR. He also shot 63 in the final round of last year's World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
The key to this 63 was Schwartzel's iron play. He hit every green in regulation.
"There were a few flags tucked away," he said, "but with the greens being soft, you could spin it into the corners."