HUMBLE, Tx. (CBS Houston) – It’s safe to assume the day you don the Green Jacket life as you’ve known changes forever.
Charl Schwartzel just had no idea how much his world would change when he came out of nowhere last year to win the 75th Masters in Augusta. His peers and the golfing community certainly looked at him different and his face was more recognizable to fans but the biggest change may have in his confidence on the golf course.
“It’s hard to explain,” the Johannesburg, South Africa native said Wednesday following his practice round for the Shell Houston Open which tees off Thursday. “So many things have happened. You know my golf game, it’s boosted my golf game, made me a better player.”
The proof was certainly there as Schwartzel went on to play well in the next three Majors, finishing tied for ninth at the U.S. Open, tied for 12th at PGA Championship and he was in the mix going into the third round of The Open Championship before scoring 75.
Now Schwartzel is viewed a threat in every tournament he enters. He may not win but he is part of the conversation.
All eyes will be on him in the warm-up to the Masters this week during the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club. From here he and several in the field head to Augusta for the crown jewel of the PGA Tour.
This is a desired stop for many because the Redstone course designed with an enough similarities to Augusta National that it’s widely considered a great tune up to the Masters. A strong showing here is seen as an indicator of how things will go in Augusta.
But apparently how Schwartzel plays here is no real barometer for how he will play at the Masters. Last year he finished tied for 30th here and we know how that ended up. In 2010 he finished tied for fourth at the SHO and of course he didn’t exactly become a household name in Augusta.
Still, Schwartzel finds much more benefit to be hearing than taking practice rounds at Augusta National this week.
“I felt I like played so much better,” Scwartzel said about playing here last year. “I was striking the ball well, and I was very good on Sunday with myself, with my finish, but very confident going into Augusta. I felt like I knew exactly what I was doing with the golf ball.”
A strong showing this weekend at the SHO could turn some of the spotlight back to Schwartzel heading into the Masters. After all he is the defending Masters champion.
Right now, however, all the talk going into the Masters is about Rory McIllroy and Phil Mickelson and how those two will up against Tiger Woods, who is coming off his first tournament win in forever.
And that is just fine with Schwartzel who seems most comfortable flying under the radar.
“It does make a difference,” said Schwartzel, who has two Top 10 finishes this month and currently sits at 51st in the FedexCup Standings. “In a way, you feel like you’re being overlooked and you can work under the radar.
“All the other guys, they apply a lot of pressure on them, and you can go about your business the way you normally would and catch them off guard.”
Much the way he did last year. He was the nice guy who had done well on the European Tour but hadn’t done much in the Majors of the PGA.
But the view of Schwartzel among his peers has forever changed because of the Green Jacket in his closet that entitles him to membership in a very exclusive club.
“There’s a mutual respect between the players,” Schwartzel said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the Major that stands out the most. That’s the way I feel about it. I think a lot of guys do.
“By winning it, you gain a huge amount of respect from everyone.”