South Africa's Schwartzel jumps into contention

Friday, April 08, 2011
By David Ching
Morris News Service

With one successful eagle chip on the par-5 eighth hole Thursday, Charl Schwartzel pushed himself into the thick of the Masters Tournament race.

After a solid drive, Schwartzel went for the green with his second shot on the 570-yard hole and fell a yard shy of the green. He cashed in the eagle to move to 4-under.

"I couldn't have asked for an easier little chip, and I managed to pull it off," said Schwartzel, who trails by four strokes after a first-round 3-under-par 69.

"I got a lot of momentum out of that shot."

Making only his second appearance at the Masters -- he finished at 3-over last year, tying for 30th -- Schwartzel constructed a steady round from the beginning.

He birdied Nos. 2 and 6 before his eagle on No. 8 helped him make the turn at 4-under. The 26-year-old South African gave back a stroke with a bogey on No. 10 before a run of five pars.

Schwartzel missed a couple of prime scoring opportunities during that stretch, and he later missed a short putt on No. 18, settling for bogey.

"A round can always go better. I didn't birdie 13 or 15 after not being in too bad of positions," he said. "I missed a little tap-in here at the last.

"I played really good. If things really went your way, it could have been pretty low."

Schwartzel is a six-time winner on the European Tour and is enjoying an outstanding season there this year. He has five top-10 finishes this season, including a title defense at the Joburg Open.

He had a quietly impressive run through the major championships last year after his Masters debut, tying for 16th at the U.S. Open, for 14th at the British Open and for 18th at the PGA Championship.

"You couldn't ask for any better conditions out there today," he said.