There was an air of inevitability early in the final round that Charl Schwartzel would win the Tshwane Open, but the world number 43 impressed everybody with the sheer quality of his play to shoot a brilliant 63 and win the co-sanctioned title by a massive eight strokes at Pretoria Country Club on Sunday.
An eagle on the par-five ninth hole after a superb second shot from the semi-rough meant Schwartzel was four ahead of Zander Lombard at the turn and huge birdie putts of 40 and 35 feet respectively on the two par-threes coming in, the 14th and 16th, sealed the deal for the former Masters champion.
Young Lombard had started the day just one stroke behind Schwartzel, but wilted as the pressure of playing in the lead two-ball with one of South Africa’s best golfers began to weigh heavily on him, the wheels eventually coming off with double-bogeys on 16 and 17 as the Joburg Open runner-up crashed to a 74 and a share of seventh place.
“On the first three days I hit the ball well above standard but my putting was below standard. So it was very satisfying that the putting came right in the final round, today was a big step forward. I’ve played a lot here and it’s good to play on familiar ground, it makes your chances better. This has certainly boosted my confidence and I’m excited to get back to America,” Schwartzel said.
Schwartzel collected seven birdies and an eagle, offset by two bogeys, to finish on 16-under-par for the lowest score and biggest winning margin in the event’s four-year history. The 31-year-old once again relied on his superior ability with the long-irons to separate himself from the rest of the field to dramatic effect.
“I’ve always had the capability to hit my long-irons longer and more accurately than most golfers, which is a big advantage. It means I can hit a six-iron where others are taking a four-iron, which gives me more loft and allows me to eliminate a lot of unnecessary mistakes. From a young age I’ve been able to hit my long-irons very well,” Schwartzel said.
As Lombard tumbled down the leaderboard after his tee-shot on 16 strayed on to the edge of the moat next to the green, it allowed Denmark’s Jeff Winther to be the sole runner-up as he calmly soared up the leaderboard with a 64 to finish on eight-under-par.
Schwartzel’s other challengers were all washed away in the eddies of his brilliance, with Anthony Michael finishing third after a level-par 70 left him on six-under-par and Haydn Porteous slipped to a 73 and a share of 10th place on three-under-par with Brandon Stone (66) and Jaco van Zyl (67).
Justin Walters, Richard Sterne and Dean Burmester all climbed the leaderboard to finish in a tie for fourth on five-under-par, while Australian Brett Rumford and Scotland’s Jamie McLeary finished with Lombard in seventh on four-under-par.