Schwartzel says Leopard Creek more difficult than ever before

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa reacts on the 17th during round two of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek Country Golf Club on November 29, 2019 in Malelane, South Africa. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Though you wouldn’t say it given the 35-year-old’s surge up the leaderboard at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

Considering it’s his first golf tournament in seven months and, by his own reckoning, Leopard Creek is playing more difficult than it ever has before, the Alfred Dunhill Championship is going particularly well for Charl Schwartzel.

The 35-year-old has been battling a serious wrist injury caused by a nerve entrapment, but one could hardly tell as he went into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship in a tie for sixth on four-under-par overall, after shooting a two-under-par 70 on Saturday.

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He is seven strokes behind leader Pablo Larrazabal, but the Spaniard himself said he will be watching the former Masters champion anxiously in his rearview mirror.

That’s because Schwartzel is the king of Leopard Creek. He has won the tournament four times and has finished second on another four occasions. So if anyone can tell you how hard Leopard Creek has been to play this week, it is the South African.

“I think the golf course is playing extremely difficultly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this hard. So to make my comeback, especially like this, has not been easy and the way I’ve hung in there, grinding it out, feels like quite an accomplishment. It’s great to be playing again, but I’ve had to work hard at it,” Schwartzel said after his third round.

A sweltering day in Malelane, with the temperature rising to 41⁰, will only add to the difficulty in Sunday’s final round with the greens just getting firmer and quicker. Schwartzel said this is not only making approach shots extremely testing, especially with a swirling wind picking up over the last two days, but is also affecting the putting, even though he putted superbly, looking extremely confident every time he stood over the flat stick.

“The heat has really made the greens crusty and bumpy and I actually think the old greens were better. But it’s the same for everyone and I’ve been putting very well, I do feel very comfortable. I changed my grip in February, so I used it for six weeks and I’m glad to see it is still going well,” Schwartzel said.

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