Schwartzel set to dom­i­nate pack

CityPress - - Sport - PULE MOKHINE pmokhine@city­

Will South Africa’s golf dar­ling Charl Schwartzel con­tinue his dom­i­nance of the Al­fred Dun­hill Cham­pi­onship?

This will be put to the test when the co-sanc­tioned Sun­shine-Euro­pean tour event tees off at Leop­ard Creek Coun­try Club in Male­lane, Mpumalanga, start­ing on Thurs­day.

Schwartzel has set the pace by be­com­ing the coun­try’s only golfer so far to win this tour­na­ment three times since its in­cep­tion in 2003 (see box). He will be vy­ing for a fifth tro­phy.

The 32-year-old player from Vereenig­ing, who com­petes on the PGA and Euro­pean tours, won last year’s show­down at Male­lane by card­ing un­der-par 15 273. Schwartzel shot a fi­nal-day two-un­der in Male­lane to win by four shots against France’s Gré­gory Bourdy in a grip­ping en­counter.

To prove that the cham­pi­onship re­ally be­longs to Schwartzel, he knows the course like the palm of his hand, hav­ing carded a record un­der-par 24 264 in 2012, when he beat Swe­den’s Kristof­fer Broberg by 12 strokes. This was the big­gest score so far recorded in the con­test. Schwartzel will be de­ter­mined to stretch his win­ning streak on the Euro­pean Tour by lift­ing yet an­other tro­phy at Leop­ard Creek this year.

In Fe­bru­ary, he put a re­mark­able show­ing on the Euro­pean Tour by snatch­ing the Tsh­wane Open ti­tle with an eight-stroke vic­tory at the Pre­to­ria Coun­try Club. This was his sec­ond vic­tory on the Euro­pean cir­cuit this year.

The fol­low­ing month, March, saw Schwartzel cap his golf­ing ac­com­plish­ment by lift­ing the Valspar Tour­na­ment on the more de­mand­ing PGA Tour at In­nis­brook Golf Re­sort at Palm Har­bor, Florida. The 2011 US Mas­ters cham­pion beat Amer­i­can Bill Haas in a play-off to win his first ti­tle in the US this year.

The lu­cra­tive Al­fred Dun­hill show­down, which will see the ad­di­tion of 15 spots each in the start­ing line-up be­ing made avail­able to play­ers from both the Asian and Aus­tralasian PGA tours, has been won by more South Africans – as the last five edi­tions can at­test.

As usual, com­pe­ti­tion at Leop­ard Creek will be in­tense, with play­ers fight­ing it out to set­tle for low scores. South Africa’s Bran­den Grace, who won two years ago, will be out to prove dom­i­nance on the fair­ways. He will be up against stiff op­po­si­tion from the likes of Pablo Martin (Spain), John Bick­er­ton (England) and Broberg.

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