Sunshine Tour

Charl favourite at SA Open

Charl Schwartzel (AFP)
Charl Schwartzel (AFP)

Johannesburg - With defending champion Swede Henrik Stenson withdrawing from the South African Open, Charl Schwartzel has been vaulted into the limelight as favourite to lift the trophy at the Glendower Golf Club on Sunday.

Schwartzel, however, does not know the Edenvale course too well despite having played junior golf at the course in his early days.

"To be honest, I don't really know the course at all," said Schwartzel on Wednesday.

The course has also undergone a number of changes over the years, and the 2013 edition of the flagship event of South African golf has seen the fairways narrowed considerably.

"I played it two weeks ago and that was the first time in 15 years," Schwartzel said.

"The course was different and I didn't remember it. I made a point of playing quite a few rounds, and I'll play nine holes tomorrow and that will make four full rounds for me."

For Schwartzel, as the highest ranked South African golfer in the field at number 22 in the world, the course will still provide a considerable challenge.

"It has the risk and reward factor, more so than any other golf course," Schwartzel said.

"There's a big variety of golf shots that you can use around here, and it's not just a course where you can pull the driver all of the time. You've got to think a bit, otherwise you'll run into quite a bit of trouble."

The 2011 Masters champion dismissed any suggestion that he felt extra pressure as the favourite for a tournament he has yet to add to his growing list of victories.

"At the end of the day I know how to win and I know how to play the game," he said.

"You can't get ahead of yourself and those factors sometimes make you get ahead of things. You've got to stay level-headed and stick to your plan. If I play well then I'll be up there, whether I win or not. We'll find out."

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley of Ireland was glowing in his praise for the course's parkland layout.

"It's a great test of golf. If this course was in America I could see it as a potential US Open venue," said McGinley.

"I think the USGA would love to have a golf course like this and try to host a US Open around it. It's so reminiscent of the great golf courses we play for US Opens and it would fit very well into this bracket."

McGinley, at 46, is one of the oldest players in the field and could not contain his praise for the layout.

"I think the course is one of the best I've ever played. I'm blown away by how good it is," he said.

"The green designs that were done two years ago are wonderful. It's a tree-lined golf course that's very visual and very well bunkered. It's in extremely good condition and it will set up for a really good week."

Newly-turned professional Brandon Stone also made it through a qualifier at Kempton Park Golf Club to earn his spot in the field.

Stone finished as the top amateur in 2011 when he ended in a share of 39th.

He also led by five shots at the SA Amateur Championship held on the same course after two rounds in 2012, and will have good course knowledge in his armoury.

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