South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel said on Thursday after a solid opening round of four-under-par 68 in the Nedbank Golf Challenge that he is gaining confidence from playing at home, but the Gary Player Country Club course also does not make many birdies very available, so it is tough going at Sun City.
Schwartzel, who has slipped down to number 74 in the world, made a solid start on Thursday as he picked up two birdies and dropped just one shot on the front nine, making a five on the eighth hole as the wind changed and his approach was well short of the green.
He then picked up three more birdies on the back nine, without dropping any more shots, leaving him in a tie for second four shots behind two-time champion Sergio Garcia.
“It’s been a very difficult year so it’s nice to play at home and it builds your confidence. Everything felt good about the game and it’s about as good as I’ve ever played and I feel confident the results will probably be seen soon. I drove the ball well but you can’t take anything for granted on this course.
“The four par-fives, those are the holes to score on because it’s difficult to score birdies on the par-threes or par-fours. So if you hit a good tee-shot on a par-five then you must capitalise. Unfortunately I had a six-iron into 14 but I didn’t make the most of it. But four four-under-par rounds will never leave you far away at the end here,” Schwartzel said.
The 2012 runner-up to Martin Kaymer said it was vital to make a good start to his round, which he did with a birdie on the second hole sandwiching two pars.
“It was very difficult this morning because the wind blew a lot and the first few holes were straight into the wind. A good start is key on this course and fortunately I just had the one bogey, on eight, when the wind turned, I actually hit a good shot but it ended way short,” Schwartzel said.
His good friend Louis Oosthuizen is also going to go to bed content after shooting a solid 69 that left him in a tie for fifth.
“On the back nine I didn’t hit great shots coming in, but three-under is still fine, although it could quite easily have been a six-under. But there were a lot of good shots and positives though, and going forward it will just be about making more birdie putts.
“If you take on the drive and it comes off, then you can have short irons coming in, but there are always one or two holes waiting for you to make a mistake here. But I’ve been playing well for a while now, my game feels good, I drove really well today. I had a good start and those early holes really set the tone,” Oosthuizen said.