April 8 2011
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jack Nicklaus and Charl Schwartzel started by talking about hunting.
Soon, though, that casual conversation over lunch at Ernie Els's pro-am last year took an abrupt turn. And the next thing Schwartzel knew, Nicklaus was taking him through Augusta National -- hole by hole by hole.
To get advice from the six-time Masters champion, well, that was priceless. And a bit intimidating at the same time.
"I tried to (take notes)," Schwartzel said. "I was in such awe. Luckily Mr. Johan Rupert (a South African business tycoon) was sitting there and he also remembered what he was saying.
"You can't get better advice than that."
Schwartzel appears to have taken Nicklaus' words to heart, too. The young South African went on to tie for 30th in his Masters debut last year and Friday he found himself on the leaderboard at 4 under after polishing off a second-round 71.
Schwartzel teed off in the first group of the day with Charley Hoffman and Stuart Appleby. The dew was still on the fairways and he said the course played fairly long, as a result.
"This morning was pretty tough I thought," Schwartzel said. "I didn't particularly hit the ball as good as I did yesterday but I thought I putted a little bit better. All in all, I would take 71 and run."
Schwartzel bogeyed the fourth hole, which he thought was the easiest of the par 3s on Friday, when he short-sided himself in the bunker on the right. He got the stroke back at the par-5 eighth, though, when he hit 5-wood to the front edge of the green and chipped to a foot.
Another birdie followed at the 10th hole where a 4-iron produced a 10-foot putt. But Schwartzel bogeyed No. 12 when his tee shot landed in the back bunker and he had to play out to the left side of the green and take his medicine at the par 3.
But as difficult as the 12th can play, No. 13 offers opportunity. Schwartzel hit a 3-wood around the corner on the par 5 and a 4-iron to 20 feet for the two-putt birdie that capped his scoring for the day.
"A couple loose tee shots, but it was that sort of round where I could have shot 74 today, but pulled a 71 out of it," Schwartzel said. "Those ones almost sometimes feel better. Kept myself in it."
Ironically, one of the things that stood out from his conversation with Nicklaus was how he plays the 12th hole. The World Golf Hall of Famer told Schwartzel he never went outside the bunkers -- of course, he didn't want to go in them.
"Always aim it at the bunkers and if it's long, you're never going into the bush so, that was his line," Schwartzel recalled. "That was a particular hole that always sticks with me that that is always my line."
In addition to Nicklaus' advice, Schwartzel has also had the counsel of his countryman Ernie Els. They played Augusta National together several times before the Masters, and the two shared a practice round earlier this week.
Schwartzel learned something in that practice round that helped him finish with a par at the 18th on Friday, too.
"He chipped from the left side of the green, which looked to be a very good little chip, a chip and run," said Schwartzel, who was facing a putt from a similar position with about 10 feet of break. "And he went at the hole, and it went down and it actually went off the green.
"I think if I don't play with him, I probably would have putted it at the hole and tried to let it just trickle down. I just decided that the risk is too high, after witnessing what Ernie did in the practice round, I just went to the left and figured the longest I'm going to have is six feet if I hit a decent putt up there.
"Wasn't particularly wanting to finish with another three putt like I did yesterday. Happy with that two putt."