This interview was originally posted on PGATOUR.COM.
MARTIN PARK: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to introduce you to Charl Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champion. Charl, welcome to Royal St. George’s. This was your first major championship back in 2003. You’ve got a bit of history across the road where you won the Brabazon Trophy as well in Cinque Ports. How does it feel to be back in Kent?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: No, it’s actually a very good feeling. As you said, I’ve got very good memories about it, just thinking through, my manager there, Matt, he actually caddied for me when I played Royal Cinque Ports across the road and won the Brabazon, and I think the wind was actually a bit stronger than it was today. We were having a discussion there on the range.
But very good memories, and my first British Open was here at Royal St. George’s. I remember I think I led The Open after three holes and got such a fright when I saw my name on the leaderboard that that was all I can actually remember.
MARTIN PARK: A few years later you thought probably wouldn’t be in that kind of situation again.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: No.
MARTIN PARK: Give us your thoughts on some of the changes you’ve seen since 2003.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: To be honest, I’ve only played nine holes yesterday, teed off on the 10th hole, and I’m just sort of familiarizing myself. It was a bit too long ago for me to remember the bunkers or something, but to me it looked very much the same. I thought the course was in really good condition. The greens are probably the best links green I’ve seen for a very long time. I thought they putted really well. The ball rolled beautiful, and the course is in good condition.
Q: It’s not very often you say you don’t have very good memories of a place where you shot 78 and 77 to miss the cut, but can you expand on your memories of 2003 here and talk about when you were leading early on on Thursday morning.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, that’s what I said. After three holes I’ve got good memories. After that it was a bit of a blur.
I’ve got good memories, of course, of the way I played as an amateur next door. I won there. I remember it was bad conditions, and the two courses are pretty similar. It’s what, eight years later. I think I’m a bit more mature and understand the game a bit better.
Really I’m looking forward to this Open. It would be nice to win that Claret Jug.
Q: How do you assess your form coming into The Open? Where is your game at? Are you optimistic about the way you’re playing?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: You know, I’ve had three weeks off down in South Africa. I decided not to play the Scottish Open because I guess that the weather was going to be bad. That was my prediction. I wasn’t far off. But I decided to stay home in South Africa. It’s pretty cold right now, but we get clear days and with a bit of wind I figured it would be pretty good practice, which it was. The courses are dry, so I could really prepare for the way that these courses would play, very, very dry. We’ll see how that works out.
I feel good. I did a lot of practising. I played yesterday, and it actually felt pretty good.
Q: Obviously you won the Masters this year and were ninth at the U.S. Open, yet some bookmakers sort of have you as a 50 to 1 shot to win here. Are you still happy to be underestimated in some people’s eyes?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, people have been here — making odds you can make whatever odds you want. In a way I’ve always liked playing as the underdog and then surprise people, but, you know, it is what it is. I’m out there to give it my best and see if I can win this golf tournament. Whether my odds are 200 to 1 or 12 to 1, it doesn’t make no difference to me.
Q: Have you noticed a change in South Africa with South African players holding 50 percent of the majors? Any developments there at all, any increase in interest?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I was there really too short a period to pick it up. But I’ve been to a few golf courses where I’ve given sort of speeches, a bit of a talk, and there’s lots of youngsters out there that all of a sudden have a really big interest. I’m sure it’s made a big difference to South African golf.
Q: You’re going out with one of the favourites in Lee Westwood on Thursday. Does that suit you, or would you rather be sort of slightly more under the radar?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Actually it suits me just fine because I played with Lee the third round of the Masters. It’s always nice to play with very good players. It sort of picks up your game. Yeah, I think I’ve got a good draw.
Q: After predicting weather for the Scottish Open, what you saw at Castle Stuart, would that be your goal the next few years? Can you explain why you thought it would be bad weather? Is it just because it was Scotland?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, well, I just figured moving the Scottish Open further north into Scotland, it can’t get any better going further north. I’ve heard too many times in my life that every time — especially in Ireland, where we would arrive at a golf tournament and the locals would go, you cannot believe how good the weather was last week (laughter), and I figured it was going to be pretty much the same.
What I saw about the golf tournament, I didn’t watch too much. I watched a little bit of the last round. It looked like a fun course to play. The way they set it up didn’t look too tough. It’s a course that I would like to play, if I just can’t predict the weather right for a change.
Q: You’re 26, Rory is 22, the trend would suggest that golf is becoming a young man’s game. Do you think that would stand to be true?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, it does seem like it’s getting a little bit — the ages seem to be dropping a little bit. You know, Tiger Woods was young when he was that same age when he was starting to win, and he kept on winning until all his injuries came up now.
I would say I think — people used to say your peak was always between 30 and 33 or something like that. Maybe it’s moved by a year or two, maybe to 28. But I think the lifespan will be a bit longer now because I think the guys, the youngsters, are exercising more than the previous generation used to do. Maybe our span is a bit longer.
Q: If you could have the green jacket or the Claret Jug, which one would it be?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Both. You know, it’s difficult to say. I mean, you don’t get choosy or picky over those two. As a youngster those were the two main ones that I used to always think about.
You know, I’m not going to say which one I think is better or worse. I think they’ve both got their elite stature.
Q: Can you assess Ernie’s chances this week?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, I mean, he’s won two British Opens — he’s won one British Open. He’s always been a good link golfer. Maybe his chances are actually pretty good if you take the way he’s been playing. He’s sort of been struggling for some time. If you get into sort of weather like this, you completely forget about all the technical little things that you work on and actually play the game, and he’s more than good enough, we all know that, to win these sort of golf tournaments.
I haven’t been around him for quite a while. I haven’t seen him for more than a month, so I don’t know how his game is. But I’m very sure that he’s been working really hard at it.
A British Open I think of all the majors I think is probably the most wide open. I think there’s a lot of guys that can really win out here.
MARTIN PARK: Charl, thank you very much. Thanks for coming in. Good luck this week.