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.