Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen 'dovetailed well' to take lead at Zurich Classic
April 24, 2021
By Jeff Babineau, PGATOUR.COM
- April 24, 2021
Charl Schwartzel/Louis Oosthuizen shoot 9-under and lead after Round 3 at Zurich Classic
As PGA TOUR members, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel have maintained bases in the United States for years now, residing and playing golf in Palm Beach, Florida, but they haven’t surrendered everything from their South African roots.
In quality team golf, when a team mixes and matches effectively to keep momentum churning at opportune times, Americans might claim to have “ham ‘n egged it” very effectively. Oosthuizen and Schwartzel use a different term, gleaned from their early days across the globe: To mix well as a team is to dovetail.
The two were asked if they had “dovetailed” to their satisfaction after their Saturday 9-under 63 at TPC Louisiana not only tied the day’s low four-ball score at the Zurich Classic, but propelled them atop the leaderboard at 19-under 197.
“We dovetailed well, yeah,” Schwartzel said. To which Oosthuizen, with a smile, immediately retorted to the reporter who’d asked, “It sounds weird when you say it.”
The pair’s comfort level is obvious, as they go back to playing golf with and against one another as pre-teens. That could prove to be a significant key as Oosthuizen and Schwartzel head into the tougher foursomes format on Sunday, trying to land victory in the PGA TOUR’s lone official two-man team event.
Believe it or not, Oosthuizen, 38, owns 13 victories around the world (including the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews), but never has won a tournament on U.S. soil. How cool would it be if were able to do it with his good pal Charl, 36, the 2011 Masters champion, there by his side?
“I think Louis obviously played really well in a lot of majors, and we've both won a lot of tournaments, and I feel like the more difficult it is, the better we both play,” Schwartzel said. “So the format for tomorrow in a way suits us, and if we execute the shots the way we see it, we'll have a good chance.”
The South African pair finished third in this event in 2018. They’ll face a tough combination on Sunday: A difficult format, a toughening golf course that is growing firmer each day and some talented tandems close behind that are very capable of catching them if they play well. Australians Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith – the latter won this event with Jonas Blixt in 2017 to earn his PGA TOUR card – will join Oosthuizen-Schwartzel in the final pairing, just one shot back at 18 under after their own 63. (It was a popular number; six teams shot 63 Saturday.)
Also one shot back will be Tony Finau and Cameron Champ, the long bombers who had played great for two-and-a-half days but hit a wall and stopped making birdies on the back nine Saturday. They shot 67 in best-ball one day after shooting 68 in alternate-shot, and look forward to getting back on track on Sunday.
“Neither one of us had our best stuff,” said Finau, who made a good run at eagle on the par-5 18th to try to get into Sunday’s final group. He settled for birdie. “I made some birdies but made some bogeys. He (Champ) picked me up when I needed him to. We just kind of hung on today. I think it definitely gives us some confidence and some momentum going into tomorrow.”
Bubba Watson-Scottie Scheffler (66) and the all-Norway team of Kris Ventura-Viktor Hovland (68) will start Sunday just two shots off the pace. Three teams are three back at 16 under: Thomas Pieters-Tom Lewis (63), Tyler Duncan-Adam Schenk (63) and Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele (64).
Schwartzel did most of the heavy lifting for the leaders through 10 holes, and then Oosthuizen, known for having one of the sweetest swings in golf, started to heat up, which finally would allow the team to take flight. Oosthuizen made birdie from 19 feet at the par-5 11th, Schwartzel birdied the next two holes, and Oosthuizen would add birdies at the last three, the highlight being a 34-footer he rolled in for an unexpected 2 at the difficult par-3 17th.
“Now and then you get a putt like that where you feel like you're actually going to make it,” Oosthuizen said, “you stand over it and just need to hit a good stroke. It was one of those.”
After Schwartzel rinsed his approach at the par-5 18th, Oosthuizen would step up big again, reaching the green from 226 yards and two-putting for the team’s ninth birdie of the round. They fired 6-under 30 on the back nine.
Leishman and Smith seemed to have a pretty stress-free day themselves. Leishman had some fun at the first tee when he emerged with a long, black mullet wig in a salute to his mullet-wearing partner, Smith. (“I committed to it, and it went all right,” Leishman said after the round.) Smith has told his girlfriend that if he and Leishman, former World Cup partners, were to win on Sunday, the mullet would go, so there’s a lot more at stake on Sunday than two guys chasing silver championship belts and walking off with more than $1 million apiece. What will it take for the Aussies to prevail?
“More of the same stuff,” Smith said after both players’ games had appeared very sharp on Saturday, Leishman bouncing back from a below-average performance on Friday. “More of the solid ballstriking we had today, and not a lot of stress.”
Ah, but the stress is an inherent piece in foursomes, a seldomly played format that simply takes players out of their normal comfort zones. Two players, one golf ball to share, and so much can happen. The leaderboard is stacked tight, and it portends to be a thrilling Sunday finish on deck at TPC Louisiana. And that sits just fine with the low-key Oosthuizen.
“I think anyone within four shots of the lead has got a chance with the format that it is tomorrow,” Oosthuizen said. “It's going to be tough.”
Which would make a first victory on U.S. soil taste that much sweeter.