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."