Charl Schwartzel cruised to a victory at the Tshwane Open in his native South Africa, shooting a seven-under 63 on Sunday and finishing 16 under overall to wrap up the title at the Pretoria Golf Course in Waterkloof.
Schwartzel came into the day with a one-stroke lead but continued his blistering pace from Friday and Saturday, when he shot 64 and 66, respectively, after beginning play on Thursday with an opening-round 71. Zander Lombard came into Sunday in second but simply couldn't keep pace with Schwartzel, shooting four over to finish tied for seventh.
Jeff Winther ultimately came in second, a whopping eight strokes behind the winner. Here's the final leaderboard:
|1||Schwartzel, Charl||-16||71||64||66||63||€ 163,687|
|2||Winther, Jeff||-8||73||66||69||64||€ 118,763|
|3||Michael, Anthony||-6||64||69||71||70||€ 71,464|
|T4||Burmester, Dean||-5||70||68||68||69||€ 43,306|
|T4||Sterne, Richard||-5||68||70||69||68||€ 43,306|
|T4||Walters, Justin||-5||71||68||71||65||€ 43,306|
|T7||Lombard, Zander||-4||72||67||63||74||€ 26,059|
|T7||McLeary, Jamie||-4||68||70||69||69||€ 26,059|
|T7||Rumford, Brett||-4||75||67||68||66||€ 26,059|
|T10||Porteous, Haydn||-3||70||66||68||73||€ 18,658|
|T10||Stone, Brandon||-3||71||70||70||66||€ 18,658|
|T10||Van Zyl, Jaco||-3||66||72||72||67||€ 18,658|
For Schwartzel, the victory is his second on the European Tour in South Africa in the past four months following November's triumph at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and is his eighth triumph on the European Tour overall in South Africa.
More impressively, he dominated after returning from a two-month break. Schwartzel spoke about the process of getting back into the swing of things in his first tournament of 2016 after his round on Sunday, per PA Sport (via ESPN):
It's pleasing to me to see that the consistency of the long game is coming back and it's just nice to be in contention. There's nothing that builds confidence more than playing well. I worked hard the last few weeks and it's just nice to see that it's getting really good. Make a few putts out there and we can do some damage.
He certainly did plenty of damage. Fellow golfer Chris Hanson was left impressed by Schwartzel's showing:
It's been a good run for South African golfers on the European Tour, meanwhile, as sportswriter Graeme Joffe noted:
SA golfers have now won 5/10 tournaments on the 2016 European Tour calendar (Schwartzel x2, Stone, Porteous & Grace) - lighting it up.— Graeme Joffe (@Joffersmyboy) February 14, 2016
Few have obliterated the course, and the field, like Schwartzel did on Sunday, however.
It didn't take him long to begin his strong play, as he birdied Nos. 2, 6 and 7 to open the round. The European Tour on Twitter shared one of his early birdies:
Schwartzel left little doubt that the title was to be his on No. 9, dropping an eagle to take a four-stroke lead.
He bogeyed the 11th, his second of the day, but he promptly followed that with birdies on Nos. 12, 14, 16 and 18 to put a measurable distance between himself and the field.
His birdie on No. 18 to close the tournament was the cherry atop an absolutely brilliant day of golf:
Schwartzel's excellent round overshadowed a fine performance Sunday by Winther, who shot six under himself and roared into second place. His birdie on No. 8 was one of the day's highlights:
But the day was all about Schwartzel, who came into the tournament as the favorite and didn't disappoint. His showing on Sunday is a reminder that he'll be a threat at this year's majors, starting with the Masters on April 7.
The field for that tournament—which Schwartzel won in 2011—will be much more competitive, of course. But given Schwartzel's play after a two-month hiatus, he may be a force to be reckoned with once he's back into a regular playing schedule.
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