By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
NORTON, Mass. -- Charl Schwartzel did the math and it just didn't add up.
If the young South African who turned 27 on Wednesday, had played last week at The Barclays, he would create a stretch where he was away from home for the better part of three months. So Schwartzel, who started the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup ranked a comfortable 21st, looked at his schedule to the end of the year and decided he was safe to skip the opener at Plainfield Country Club.
“It just worked out that that was the one that I could maybe afford to take off. ... To win the FedExCup you basically need to win one of these events, so I figured I'll take my chances in the three coming up."
Turns out, given the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, Schwartzel probably picked the perfect week to stay home.
"Yeah, at the end of the day there's still going to be a winner, but it's nice," he said with a big smile. "I was sitting in South Africa in the sunshine and watching the guys struggle through the hurricanes and all the things happening out here. ... But by missing an event you do put yourself a little bit on the back foot."
But Schwartzel actually got off on the right foot on Friday at TPC Boston as he fired a 66 that left him one shot off the lead. The reigning Masters champ had dropped seven spots in the FedExCup to 28th during his idle week but was projected at No. 7 when he walked off the course.
"It was one of those just solid rounds of golf," said Schwartzel, who hit nine fairways, 12 greens and used 25 putts. "Drove the ball well, made a lot of good iron shots and gave myself opportunities to make a few putts. From the first hole I made a really nice 20-footer and kind of got things going, and it was just really good golf from there on. I didn't make very many mistakes.”
Schwartzel, who has won six times around the world, is playing his first season as a PGA TOUR member -- and it's been an extremely consistent one. He's played in 13 events and has yet to miss a cut. He's had two other top-10 finishes and only twice has dipped lower than 30th.
Schwartzel's play in the majors has been particularly impressive. In addition to that win at Augusta National, where he birdied the final four holes on Sunday, the South African tied for ninth at the U.S. Open, 16th at the British Open and 12th at the PGA Championship.
"That's something I work on is my consistency," Schwartzel said. "That's one of the reasons why I don't play that many events in a row. I believe you can't stay consistent if you ... just keep on playing, playing, playing.
"Your concentration can only last that long for that many events. I pace myself very well, and when I do come out, I make sure that I'm totally ready to play."
That was certainly the case on Friday.
It’s been more than two years since Jerry Kelly last won. It’s been just four months since Charl Schwartzel’s last victory. They’re both tied for the early clubhouse lead after each shot a 5-under 66 Thursday at TPC Boston.
Neither has ever won an event in the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup, but they were stellar with each just making one bogey and needing just 25 putts apiece on a spectacular morning just outside Boston.
There’s of course a long way to go, but Schwartzel, who entered the week 28th in the FedExCup cup, is currently projected to move to second. Kelly, who began the week 47th, would move to third.
The bigger story, however, may be who’s behind them. Jason Day is just a stroke back, as is Nick Watney, who is finishing up his round as we speak. Last week’s winner, Dustin Johnson, is another shot back from that and the reigning FedExCup champ, Jim Furyk, who needs a good week just to advance to the BMWE Championship in two weeks, is only three off the pace.
In other words, there are some big names making some big moves early in Boston.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Eagle-eyed Tiger Woods fans have noticed his putter rotation over the past year, from his mainstay Scotty Cameron to a Nike Method to a Method mallet-style and, this week, back to a Nike Method blade similar to the Cameron.
But there’s one more significant change in his clubs – the shaft of his Nike VR Tour driver.
“I went away from the Diamana I’ve used for a long time and went to a Graphite Design, which I played at THE PLAYERS and last week (at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational) as well,” Woods said Wednesday at his PGA Championship press conference.
The shaft is a Graphite Design Tour AD DJ model, new for this year. It features a mid kickpoint and is optimized for high trajectory and mid-range ball spin. It’s also mostly red in color.
Anything else new in the four-time PGA champion’s bag?
“Oh, fresh wedges,” Woods said. “But that’s nothing new. Same design.”
NOT THAT HARD: Much of the pre-tournament discussion has focused on the length at Atlanta Athletic Club, specifically the 264-yard par-3 15th hole.
“I thought it was a par 4. I don’t think you’re going to be too disappointed if you walk off with a 4,” Charl Schwartzel said.
How about walking away with a 1? That’s what Webb Simpson did in a Tuesday practice round, using this Titleist 910 hybrid that Golf.com’s David Dusek captured.
VALIDATION: A long putter hasn’t been part of a major championship-winning bag yet, but with Adam Scott’s win at the elite WGC-Bridgestone, that time seems to be approaching.
Scott admitted that his Scotty Cameron Kombi long putter – which towers over the rest of the equipment in his bag – was a kind of last-ditch effort to improve his putting. But no one’s questioning it now, or ruling out Scott’s chances at winning a major on the heels of his WGC title.
“I mean, I was very frustrated and I hadn't thought about it. So yeah, I guess it's a last resort,” Scott said Tuesday in Atlanta. “Got some interesting reactions. Certainly turned a few heads when I showed up at the (WGC-Accenture) Match Play with a long putter. But to be honest, I think a few people have taken notice of the way I'm rolling the ball. I mean, it's a noticeable improvement from where I was.”
Everyone in golf has noticed.
“Whatever works, there's so many guys using so many different methods now,” British Open champion Darren Clarke said. “If you go back maybe ten years or so, the belly putter was frowned upon, the long putter was frowned upon, left-below-right (grip, for a righthanded player) was frowned upon.
“You've got Robert Garrigus, how long is his putter, 27 inches or something; you have so many different
“I spoke to Adam about it, and he's very pleased with it. He said he can't see himself going back to a short one at all.”
INSIDE THE LOGO: As it does for all the majors, TaylorMade has designed a special logo for this week’s PGA Championship. Some of the company’s staff pros are carrying it on their bags.
The four-leaf clover in the center symbolizes the birthday of Bobby Jones, the legendary Atlanta amateur. He was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1902.
Jones won 13 major championships (back when majors included the U.S. and British Amateurs), which explains the 13 rays surrounding the clover. Inset in the rays is the number 265 – the score David Toms shot at Atlanta Athletic Club 10 years ago.
The style and shapes around the logo harken to the Art Nouveau movement popular at the turn of the 20th century, which was also around the time AAC was founded (1898).
Chris Kirk is one of four rookies now inside the top 30 in the FedExCup standings thanks to his victory at last week’s Viking Classic. The others are Charl Schwartzel, Keegan Bradley and Jhonattan Vegas.
While Kirk became the 10 th winner in his 20s to win on the PGA TOUR last week, though, the RBC Canadian Open has favored the establishment in recent years -- only three winners since 2000 have been under the age of 30 (Tiger Woods in 2000, John Rollins in 2002 and Chez Reavie in 2008).
Speaking of Reavie, who got his first career win at this event, he seems to have re-captured his form after undergoing ACL surgery on his right knee in June 2010. He missed the remainder of last year and has played on a combination of medical extension and past champion status this year. But his recent finishes include a tie for fifth at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and a tie for fifth at the John Deere Classic, where he posted a career-best 62 in the second round. He’s currently 91 st in the FedExCup standings, so another strong finish this week would go a long way.
Chris Kirk's Viking Classic win makes him the fifth rookie to win on the PGA TOUR this year, joining the group of Jhonnatan Vegas, Charl Schwartzel, Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley.
Kirk's final-round 66 at Annandale included two late birdies on No. 15 and 17 that helped him move a shot past Tom Pernice Jr. and George McNeill, who finished at 21 under.
Kirk earned his TOUR card by finishing second on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. He had the lead entering Round 4, but did not pull away from the field until the final hole. Pernice and McNeill shot 67 and 68 respectively, and held the lead or a share of the lead for a majority of the back nine.
Kirk approached Annandale's finishing par-5 with a one shot lead and played it in winner's fashion -- fairway, layup, green and two putts.
It was a stellar performance that many could see coming from the former University of Georgia standout. Kirk finished second to Phil Mickelson at the Shell Houston Open in April. He also fired a third-round 63 at the AT&T National two weeks ago that eventually led to a tie for eighth.
Kirk earned 250 FedExCup points with the win, and is now No. 25 in the FedExCup Standings.
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Two majors. Two second places.
A tie at the Masters. Solo at the U.S. Open.
So if you're not paying attention to Jason Day, you should be.
The 2010 Byron Nelson champ, the 23-year-old from Queensland, is turning into a major force. He shot a 64 in the second round of the Masters; a third-round 65 here at Congressional Country Club. He shared second -- two shots behind winner Charl Schwartzel -- with fellow Aussie Adam Scott at the Masters and finished 8 shots behind Rory McIlroy here, closing with a 68 to McIlroy's 69.
"Obviously it's my first U.S. Open,'' said Day, who has seven top-nine finishes on the TOUR this year. "Very excited that I finished second. I'm not going to go home and cry because I got whooped.
"But Rory, you can't beat a guy that's gone out and played as well as he has this week. He just didn't miss a beat, played phenomenal golf, and I played really, really solid golf over the weekend, which I really wanted to do, and I'm very, very happy to finish second, which is nice."
In so many other years, 8 under would have won. This week, Day's remarkable week was just the second lowest score by one of the fast-rising 20-somethings.
"Yeah, obviously if you go around to each country, each country has their own rising star coming up,'' Day said. "This is the start of it, and obviously Rory is leading it, and there's a bunch of other great golfers out there that obviously we need to work a little harder to get to the level of Rory. But you're right, we really are going to start a new generation, and it's really fun. I think it's great for golf."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Charl Schwartzel won the Masters when he closed with four straight birdies at Augusta National two months ago.
Of course, Rory McIlory had a back-hand in that victory when he squandered a four-shot lead and made triple bogey from between the cabins well to the left of the 10th fairway. Schwartzel, who flew with McIlroy to Malaysia for a tournament the next week, was impressed with the way the Northern Irishman handled defeat.
"You know, the way he reacted, the way he handled it afterwards, it looked like it was going to be around the corner," Schwartzel said. "He put it behind him very quickly. I think you guys sort of took it a bit further and tried to see why, and he just said, well, it happened, and he sort of got on with it a lot quicker, which for him was very good, and the results are showing."
Schwartzel called McIlroy's performance "very spectacular," and said he looked like "he was playing a different course." The South African noted that Congressional played to the 22-year-old''s strengths this week -- McIlory hits a high ball a very long way -- but added "you're not going to be making scores like that if you're not playing really well."
Schwartzel closed with a satisfying bogey-free 66 on Sunday, his lowest round of the week and his second under par. The PGA TOUR rookie nearly holed two iron shots -- coming within inches of an ace at the daunting par-3 10th -- and called his play "pretty spectacular."
One of the nicest things this week, though, was the increased recognition from the fans.
"I was saying to my caddie that a couple years ago, five, six years ago when I came out here, you would walk down the fairway and people would recognize you,' Schwartzel said. "They'd say we've seen you somewhere, but they don't actually know who you are. Sometimes you'd hear, 'Who's that guy?' And now I really had a lot of support, and that's nice. It's very encouraging."
BETHESDA, Md. -- Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have been playing golf together since they were 12 and 10, respectively.
Safe to say they've spurred each other along at tournaments across the globe – and it looks like the U.S. Open isn't going to be any different.
Not to be outdone, Schwartzel has just birdied three of his last four holes to join his long-time friend at 2 under. The reigning masters champ has three holes remaining, including a par 5.
As we all know, Schwartzel is the only player who has a chance to win the Grand Slam. Only five players have won the Masters and gone on to win the U.S. Open in the same season – Tiger Woods (2002), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Arnold Palmer (1960), Ben Hogan (1951, ‘53) and Craig Wood (1941).
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
BETHESDA, Md. -- Louis Oosthuizen was 12 years old and Charl Schwartzel was 10 the first time the two played in a tournament together.
The event was the South African Junior back in Johannesburg, and Oosthuizen had already begun to make a name for himself. Schwartzel's playing partner had pulled out of the tournament so he asked Oosthuizen if he wanted to play with him. Soon, though, Schwartzel regretted the decision.
"I got really nervous," he said, chuckling at the memory. "... I played and I'll never forget after the first hole I think he three-putted the first hole and he had quite a temper on him, he really got cross. And I was very surprised. I looked at my dad and I was like, do you see that? Do you see that? That's what I remember. That's where it all started for us. From there on we started playing quite a lot of golf together, actually."
Oosthuizen remembers the day similarly -- even admitting that he had a bad temper. "I hated it when I didn't make any putts," he said, flashing a toothy grin. " ... He always tells me his dad said, wow, this kid has a bad temper, he's bad news. But luckily I grew out of that."
The two, now 28 and 26 respectively, have remained close friends and followed remarkably similar career paths. The two come to this week's U.S. Open as PGA TOUR rookies and major champions with Schwartzel winning the Masters two months after and Oosthuizen last year's British Open.
"It's amazing," Oosthuizen said. "... It's just great to have a friend like him on TOUR and to have the same success. I think the two of us feed off each other quite a lot. If he plays well, I want to play well. And if I play well, he wants to, as well. It's good. It's really good what we have going for us."
The two live in the same south Florida golf course development frequently rent homes together on the road. "A few times we've sat back and just said, you know, you actually see what we've done, where we came from," Schwartzel said. "We are very proud of it."
Oosthuizen said he thinks more people recognize Schwartzel since the Masters is so recent. He doesn't mind, though. After all, Oosthuizen was first to the major winner's circle and he's helped Schwartzel cope with the fame both have earned.
"I remember talking to Charl after my Open win and saying it's tough, it gets to you, some things," Oosthuizen said. "... And now I just laugh at him when he looks at me and he starts talking. I said, I told you. I told you. So now it's nice having those chats, as well. But I hope everyone thinks we were handling it well. But we try and do the best job we can."