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May 30 2013

5:41 PM

Schwartzel profits from grip tweak

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.

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