Triumphant Schwartzel takes a break
Seve Ballesteros is the last player to win three consecutive European Tour events – and will stay that way.
Seve Ballesteros is the last player to win three consecutive European Tour events – and it will that that way after Charl Schwartzel’s decision to pull out of this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship.
The 25-year-old South African feels the need to rest for a week after a memorable Africa Open and Joburg Open double in his home country.
His next tournament will now be next week’s Qatar Masters – and there he will be trying to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to triumph in three successive starts.
Twenty under par in East London, Schwartzel was an even more impressive 23 under as he romped to a six-stroke victory over compatriot Keith Horne and Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington yesterday.
As well as opening up a £268,000 lead at the top of the Tour’s ‘Race to Dubai’ money list – most of the big guns return this week from their winter break – he has improved on his previous best of 40th to 35th place in the world rankings and a debut in the Masters at Augusta in April should now follow.
And while he moves up 16 places Clarke’s joint second place has put him back into the world’s top 100 at 95th.
The world’s top 50 a week before the opening major of the season all qualify, and Schwartzel said: “I’m very excited about that.”
His margin of victory equalled the biggest of last season, and he added: “It’s been a fantastic two weeks for me. I played good last week and it definitely carried over.
“I played pretty much flawless golf and I don’t know what it comes down to – maybe a good positive frame of mind after you hit a bad shot.”
Four behind at the start of a round brought forward because of the threat of further storms, Clarke could easily have closed the gap to one on the long sixth but missed from six feet after Schwartzel had made a 25-footer.
The Ryder Cup star then three-putted the next and there looked only one winner after that but a closing chip-in eagle earned 40-year-old Clarke more than £107,000 and an equivalent number of cup points.
For the record, Ballesteros’ hat-trick of wins came in 1986 at the Irish, Monte Carlo and French Opens – and he hads also won on his previous start to those three.
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