Schwartzel stalking greatness

2007-12-05 00:00

MALELANE — Charl Schwartzel tees off in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship at the Leopard Creek Golf Course confident that he belongs among the top players in the world and more determined than ever to get there.

Schwartzel joins Ernie Els and Darren Clarke as the biggest names in the field for this €1 million championship, starting on Thursday.

The young South African claimed his maiden European Tour victory in this event in 2004, and has finished second here the past two years on a course he rates as his favourite.

And after winning a second European Tour title in this year’s Open de Espana in April, Schwartzel has set his sights on a permanent place in the top 50 of the world rankings.

“I need to get back in there,” said Schwartzel, who with his victory in April rose to number 41 in the world, but by July had dropped out of the top 50 again. He’s currently 81st.

“I just started slipping. But my game’s definitely good enough for me to be one of the top in the world.”

Another incentive for Schwartzel this week is the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit. Schwartzel has won the Order of Merit for the past three consecutive seasons, and says he’d love to make it four this season.

But at 19th on the money list, he needs a big finish this week and in next week’s South African Airways Open to stand a chance.

“I’m quite far behind on this Order of Merit so to have any chance I need a win or a second place this week. That’s my immediate goal. If I could win here I could also get very close to being in the top 50 in the world again.”

Another man hunting a win this week is Els. “I want to end my 2007 season on a high note. I would love to get a win on South African soil. I feel like I still want to get some more out of this year,” said the world number five.

This week’s event plays a part in Els’s own world rankings goal, namely succeeding in his three-year plan to become world number one.

“I’ve got two years left of my promise. Obviously I’ve got to win tournaments, and big ones, and keep moving up the world rankings.”

Qualifying round result

65 - Merrick Bremner

66 - Charl Coetzee

67 - Dandre Neumeyer

68 - Derek Crawford SCO, Tyran van Lieshout , Dean Lambert , Don Black , Ali Tsai TWN, Leonard Loxton, Willie van der Merwe

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