MALELANE, South Africa (Reuters) - Charl Schwartzel's victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship marked the end of a two-year drought for the former U.S. Masters champion, and with some radical adjustments to his game starting to pay off, he hopes his demons are well and truly banished. The 31-year-old South African won the opening tournament of the new European Tour season to record a first success in a year and 363 days. His previous victory came in the same event at the Leopard Creek Country Club.
A drop in form saw him fall to 50th in the world rankings but Sunday's four-shot triumph suggests Schwartzel's star is on the rise again.
“Sometimes I wasn’t sure it would ever turn around,” he told reporters. “If people realised the amount of work I have put in to the game over the last 18 months, they might understand why it means so much to me.
“This time last year my golf swing was probably in the worst place it has been in as a professional,” he said, adding that he had discovered some "bad mistakes" with his putting.
"Where I think I’m aiming I’m not aiming. You can’t putt like that – you think you’re putting it right edge but then hitting it a foot right – it’s never going to go in.” Consultation with a visual skills coach, who has also helped fellow South African golfer Ernie Els and the All Blacks rugby team, had helped him improve his aim.
“Where I think the ball should go and where it should actually go are two different things and it is hard not to trust my instinct, especially in the pressure of a tournament," he said.
"But it’s on the right track, which excites me.”
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)