Charl Schwatzel back in the game
The European Tour begins its new year exactly where it finished the old one, in South Africa, but this time for the inaugural Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Following on from the successful staging of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Golf Club and the South African Airways Open at Humewood Golf Club in December, the players return to action this week in the city of Johannesburg for the first tournament of 2007.
Carrying a prize fund of €1 million, the Joburg Open will see an expanded field of 200 play both the East and West courses at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington over the first two rounds, with the players moving to the East Course after the halfway cut, set at 70 plus ties.
Among the leading contenders for the €166,660 first prize is one of Johannesburg’s favourite golfing sons, Hi-Tec’s Charl Schwartzel, who seems to feature prominently every time The European Tour visits South Africa.
Schwartzel served notice of his prodigious talent on only his third European Tour start, when he finished joint third in the 2003 South African Airways Open, and the following year saw him capture his maiden title when he held off strong opposition including Ernie Els to win the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
Els responded by pushing his young challenger into second spot at Leopard Creek the following year and 22 year old Schwartzel found himself consigned to the bridesmaid’s role once again when, before Christmas, Spanish rookie Alvaro Quiros beat him by a stroke.
Now Schwartzel has the perfect opportunity to put December’s disappointment behind him and start 2007 with victory in front of supportive home galleries. However, with a further 15 European Tour winners in the field plus a large crop of talented newcomers, his task will not be an easy one.
Schwartzel, as the home grown favourite, will be hoping it belongs to him. He is wearing the V-Lite Typhoon II CDT.