Schwartzel was the winner on the highly-rated course next to Kruger National Park last year by four strokes over Englishman Richard Finch, while he ran away with the title in 2012, beating Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg by a whopping 12 shots – the third biggest winning margin in European Tour history. He also won the title in 2004 and finished runner-up in 2005, 06, 09 and 10.
But the swing troubles that have afflicted South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer all year were in clear view at Sun City last weekend. It was a hugely frustrating week for Schwartzel as there were glimpses of brilliance as he collected 17 birdies and an eagle over the four rounds, but that was undone by 12 bogeys and four double-bogeys as he finished in a tie for 14th.
“It’s been the pattern the whole year, I’d get my game going, it would look like I was going to contend, and then one or two bad holes would make me fall back. And then I’d do it all over again, it’s a cycle that’s really frustrating. I’m making enough birdies to win, but mistakes are costing me so much.
“It’s just a swing that’s not repeating itself, it’s not consistent enough and I just have to keep working at it. So although this course has treated me very well over the years, it does something for my game, I think I’m still a long way away and my expectations are not very high,” Schwartzel said yesterday.
So the favourite’s tag should probably go elsewhere and Peter Uihlein, awarded the Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year prize in 2013, has indicated his liking for the course, while Louis Oosthuizen, if he can solve his problems with the putter that saw him change grip midway through the Nedbank Golf Challenge, says he has unfinished business with Leopard Creek.
Sun City winner Danny Willett comes to Malelane with enormous confidence after that triumph, while other golfers who deserve some fanfare are Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey, Hennie Otto, Italian star Francesco Molinari and 2008 champion Richard Sterne.
But the South African admitted that he is another local not bringing a great game to Leopard Creek, although Otto is bullish about his chances of getting on to the podium for the second time this year.