Even Charl Schwartzel doesn’t think he can heat up enough today to challenge for the Masters title, and he’s known for being quite streaky in these parts.
The defending champion has dug such a big hole that even breaking – or making -- par for the tournament will be a challenge. Rounds of 72-75-75 have him at 6-over and rethinking his goal for championship Sunday.
“I wanted to defend it. It just didn’t work out,” Schwartzel said Saturday. “If I can get it back to par, maybe one under, it’ll be a good tournament.”
A year ago in his second Masters, Schwartzel started the final round four strokes behind leader Rory McIlroy. The South African made a memorable charge to win the Masters by two strokes with 66, in the process becoming the first champion to birdie the final four holes of the tournament.
Schwartzel’s total of 14-under 274 was the lowest for an international champion, and he became the third South African to win, joining Gary Player and Trevor Immelman.
Being at 3-over after two rounds didn’t end his hopes this week. After all, he carded 69 for his first round at this event in 2010, and three rounds in the 60s last year.
“I went out this morning, I felt so good on the range,” Schwartzel said. “I went out with some high expectations, thought I could get it to under par and begin with a chance on Sunday.
“I just didn’t play very well,” he continued. “My game took me down on the golf course, especially my putter. When I hit good shots, I haven’t made the putts. That puts a lot of pressure on my long game. You hit a few bad shots, you make bogeys. This golf course will bite you if you’re not on top of it.”
He bogeyed Nos. 2, 9, 11 and 12 before recording birdies at 13 and 16 (a tee shot to within two feet of the pin). A bogey at No. 18 closed out his day.
“I thought if I could birdie 15, 16 and maybe another one coming in and shoot 1-under, whatever, for the day, at least then it will be closer tomorrow shooting low,” he said. “But the finish wasn’t where it should have been. I think that’s going to be a bit too far to catch up tomorrow.”