Dark days a fading memory for red-hot Schwartzel

Fri Feb 19, 2016 5:24pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Patience and hard work are prized attributes in professional golf and South Africa's Charl Schwartzel relied heavily on both to emerge successfully from the darkest period of his playing career.

The 31-year-old endured frustrating campaigns in 2014 and 2015 as his world ranking slipped to 54th by November but he kept telling himself he was good enough to play at the highest level and that the tide would eventually turn in his favor.

And so it did. Two wins in his last three starts worldwide have marked him out as one of the hottest players in the game and he now believes he is close to the best form of his life.

"In 2014, I was terrible and '15 wasn't the best either," former Masters champion Schwartzel told Reuters after moving into early contention for another title with a three-under-par 68 in the first round of this week's Northern Trust Open.

"Sometimes I wasn't sure it would ever turn around. You go through those stages but I kept telling myself, 'You've been out here for so long, you know that these things happen.'

"You get the ups and the downs, this down was just longer than what I was used to. But I just kept telling myself, 'You're good enough to play out here, you've just got to wait your turn, keep working and it will turn.' It feels like it's turning."

Many would view Schwartzel's claim that his form is now 'turning' as a massive understatement, given the sizzling form he has produced in his last four events worldwide.

After tying for fourth in the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour Championship in November, the following week the slim South African won the opening event of the 2015-16 season, the Alfred Dunhill Championship, by four shots.   Continued...

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa looks at the ball after the tee off at the second hole during DP World Tour Championship in Dubai November 21, 2015. REUTERS/Martin Dokoupil