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February 21, 2012

Charl Schwartzel

STEVE ETHUN:  Good morning, everyone, from Augusta, Georgia.  It's a pleasure to welcome you to today's conference call with 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
Thanks for being here, Charl.
STEVE ETHUN:¬† Again, everyone, we'll probably all remember Charl's four‑birdie finish to earn his first green jacket.¬† This year he'll return to Augusta for his third Masters.
Charl, welcome.  Thanks for taking the time to be with us today.
STEVE ETHUN:  Before we get started, why don't you start with an opening statement, maybe reflect on your first year as Masters champion.  Is it what you expected?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Thank you very much.
You know, for me, after winning the 2011 Masters, it was indeed a life‑changing experience.¬† Getting my first major championship in the way I did it, it's something that I'm very, very proud of.
I've had a fantastic year being the Masters champion.  Everywhere you go you get treated so well.  It's just been an awesome year so far.  Really looking forward to coming back and trying to defend my title.
STEVE ETHUN:  Thank you, Charl.
We're ready to take the first question for Charl, please.

Q.  Charl, can you talk about the challenge of the greens at Augusta and how you were able to get so comfortable on them.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Yeah, I think the greens at Augusta are the biggest factor, the thing the guys are most concerned about.  That was my biggest problem the very first year that I played.
I love the golf course, the way it suited my eye.  But the greens were the things that caught me.  I think Augusta, if you know the greens well, you can actually use them to your benefit more than what it should be a disadvantage or that you should be scared of them.  But you really need to know them like the back of your hand.
I was fortunate.  I asked a few guys, some of the best putters in the world, I asked them what they did on the very fast greens, and they gave me a bit of advice.  It worked out for me.
I practiced for about six, seven weeks before I got there to putt on those fast greens.  I think that's what made me feel so comfortable.  I wasn't scared of the greens at all.

Q.  Charl, was there a certain type of pressure that you found that came with being a Masters champion?  How do you think you felt with that this year on and off the golf course?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I think one of my biggest challenges was to try not to change as a person after winning so big.  I think it very easily can happen.  I tried to stay very humble.
I felt like I dealt with it fairly well.  I really enjoyed all the things that went with winning a major championship.
I don't know what else to say.

Q.  Charl, what would you do differently when defending your title this year from what you did last year?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Nothing.  Last year worked (laughter).
I think probably the biggest challenge this year is there's obviously going to be more eyes on you, people would want to see whether you can live up to the challenge.
But that's something I have to get around in my head not to worry about.  I have to go out there and treat it as a new tournament, just give it my best.
As long as I prepare properly, give the golf the attention it needs that week.

Q.  Charl, you said in your earlier answer that you practiced six or seven weeks before putting.  How and where did you do that?  Ian Woosnam used to practice standing on a snooker table.  What did you do to replicate the greens in those six or seven weeks?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Every week that I played, I went and found the fastest spot I could find on the putting green.  Obviously downhill putts.  The biggest thing you actually learn is to make a small stroke.
You play week in and week out on fast greens, but not nearly as fast as you get at Augusta.  The biggest adjustment is to learn to make a little stroke and be consistent with it.  I think that's what helped me.
I felt very comfortable making a little, small stroke.  Like I said, it worked out for me.  I felt really comfortable even when I had fast putts.

Q.¬† When you won, Charl, with that four‑birdie finish, obviously never been done before, almost in a sense at the time it wasn't overshadowed, but Rory's collapse got an awful lot of media.¬† Did you feel at the time you didn't get what you deserved becoming a champion?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Once again, I don't look into it that deeply.  For me, I won.  I won my first major championship, and especially the way that I did it.
I think a lot of guys did make a big thing about Rory's collapse.  If you think about it, I still shot 66.  He still would have had to have shot 69 to have beaten me.  People don't seem to look at that.
It is what it is.  I'm not a guy that worries about those sort of things.

Q.  You kindly came to the Golf Writers Dinner at the Open and wore the green jacket.  How many times did you wear it over the previous year and what was the most fun, interesting occasion that you wore it?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  There's something about the jacket.  Every single time you put it on, you get this very, very proud feeling.
I wore it I don't know how many times.  It traveled with me the whole of last year.  Basically every single function that we went to, I wore it.  I have no idea.  I mean, I played 36 tournaments last year.  I must have worn it more than 20, 25 times at some functions.
Every time you put it on, it's a special moment.

Q.  Let's hope if you come to our dinner again this time you're still wearing it.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  That's the plan (laughter).

Q.  Charl, is it true that you're going to do something unique at the Champions Dinner with the meal and where does that stand?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Well, I mean, we were going to try and do a barbecue.  In South Africa we call it a 'braai'.  I don't like very formal dinners.  I thought of keeping it very relaxed, sort of standing around a fire and cooking the meat.

Q.  Is that what you hope to do?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  That's what I hope to do.  Only thing that could stop me probably if there's too many people.  Then it's very difficult to do the meat yourself.
But we're still waiting for confirmation if it will be allowed, see how it works.

Q.  Charl, 1994 was a pretty big year for South African golf with Ernie and Nick Price winning three majors that year.  How influential was that year on you?  You were probably about eight years old or so.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I was 10 at that stage.
Yeah, I think pretty much like any young guy that watched me win the Masters, it was like for me, Ernie and Retief and Nick Price, those were our idols, those were the guys I looked up to.
It's one of those where you see them win, it makes you so much more eager to go and play and do what they do.  To say what it did for my golf, I don't know.  But those guys were my heroes.  To see your idols do those sort of things urges you on so much.

Q.  Your dad was obviously instrumental in teaching you the game.  We talked to him.  He says fortunately for you, you did not inherit his personality on the golf course.  You got your mother's personality on the golf course.  Can you talk about your dad's personality on the course and how has that changed?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:¬† He was pretty hot‑headed, to say the least (laughter).¬† I think what he means by that, obviously in this game you can get in the way of yourself if your temper gets in your way.
My mom, she's a very relaxed person.¬† I think I'm very similar to her.¬† He's obviously, since he stopped playing competitively, mellowed quite a lot.¬† He realized it wasn't worth all the fuss.¬† Yeah, he was pretty hot‑tempered.

Q.¬† Charl, I wanted to follow‑up on what you were saying on how the jacket traveled with you everywhere.¬† Do you take any special precautions?¬† Does it have its own suitcase?¬† Do you keep it with you on the plane at all times?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I took it with me.  I never put it in a suitcase.  I had it in my hands every time.  Only risk I suppose you take is when you go out to play the tournament and you have to leave it in the cupboard in the hotel room.

Q.  I know you and Rory have a good relationship.  What was that flight like that you took after the Masters and what was his reaction to you?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  What can I say?  He was obviously hurting a lot.  But the way that he congratulated me, you could see he really meant it.  I mean, I really appreciated it.
I knew he was hurting.  I didn't even talk about it.  I didn't want to talk about it.  I didn't want to throw it in his face.
He came up to me, congratulated me, wanted to take photos with me.  He joked, At least the green jacket is on the airplane.
It was a very unbelievable thing of him to do.  It shows his character, what sort of person he is.  That's why he's obviously having the success he has, it's because of the attitude he's got.

Q.  Charl, golf seems to be on the up in South Africa.  During the years we've seen Ernie, Retief, Nick Price, then most recently Immelman and you winning majors.  Do you think that trend can continue by more South Africans winning more majors?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I certainly do.  If you have a look, how many new guys have just won this year?  Jbe Kruger won India last week.  Brandon Grace won the first two tournaments of the year on the European Tour.  George Coetzee basically a top 10 every week he plays.  There's still a lot of depth out there.
There's something about South Africa, they're producing such good golf.  What it is, who knows.

Q.¬† What is the magic that South Africa has by producing all these top‑quality golfers?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I don't know.  Like I said, who knows exactly.  There's so many factors that could be part of it.  I've said it many times.  Our foundations, our junior and amateur foundations, set the guys up for when they turn pro.  It's so competitive.  We're fortunate that we can play golf 12 months of the year on some of the best courses in the world.  South Africa has fantastic golf courses.  I mean, there's not many places in the world that guys can do that.
I think South Africans are also very competitive.  They are very competitive when it comes to these sort of things.  Maybe that also plays a role.

Q.  Charl, I'm curious.  When you presented Augusta National that you wanted to cook your own meat, I'm wondering what their initial response was.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I don't know.  Their initial response was obviously, We'll come back to you on that.  I think it took them quite by surprise, maybe expecting something a little more different or more the way they always do it.
I just find sometimes that I don't enjoy these functions that are formal.  You sit down, the food comes.  I like it to be fun and relaxed, something that everyone will eat.  If you bring in funny sort of foods, not everyone eats it.  That's not what you want.
I think everybody must be able to eat it and everybody must be able to enjoy it.  That's what I do when I'm home on my off time.  Basically every night I cook meat on the fire.  Yeah, I thought that's something to do.

Q.  If they give you the go ahead, what meat are you throwing on the grill?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Yeah, I don't know.  We'll put some lamb chops, fillet steaks, a thing we call boerewors.  It's a sausage that is very sort of famous in South Africa.  I'm going to get to some South African shops in the United States and order some of those sausages and things.

Q.  Obviously when you're in the heat of competition you learned that stuff goes through your head.  When you finished last year, finished with four consecutive birdies, somebody comes up to you and tells you nobody has ever done that before, nobody has done more than two consecutive birdies to win the Masters, what was your thought?  Did you think of that more in the days after?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Obviously, while you're doing it, the last thing you're thinking about is that you've made four birdies.  You're thinking, I'm trying to win the Masters.  It never even crossed my mind when I finished that I just made four birdies.  I was just happy that I had won my first major championship.
Obviously, it became quite a thing.  I realized nobody ever had done it.  People started talking about it quite a bit.  I don't know.  I wish I could give you guys like a real amazing answer, but there's nothing that I can say instead of what happened.
I don't actually know how to answer you on that.

Q.  You were talking about the difficulty of the greens, how difficult it is to finish a Masters round with four birdies, a very rare occurrence.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Yeah.  I mean, it is.  To close off any tournament with a couple of birdies, four birdies or so, would be a fair task.  But to do it at the Masters, I think it's something very special.
All I can say is for some reason that whole week, especially those last few holes, except for the 18th tee, I was very, very calm ‑ calmer than I normally am.¬† Why that was I've got no idea.
That played a big role in me executing the shots I did and making the birdies.  I think most of the time when you come down a stretch like that, any major championship, you would be fairly more nervous than what you would normally be.  But for some reason I was very, very calm.  I think that sort of helped me convert those birdies at that stage of a Sunday afternoon.

Q.  Charl, I know last year Tiger was in the hunt at Augusta.  It was a rare occasion for him on the year.  Rory talked about earlier this year really looking forward to sort of playing a season when Tiger is a big factor in the tournaments, playing the way he was before.  It looks like he's on a path back.  Phil is, as well.  Are you looking forward to that challenge, looking for an opportunity to compete against everybody in the world playing at their best?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  I do.  I do.  For me one of the nicest things at Augusta was to see Tiger come up the leaderboard.  Obviously what he's done for golf, major events, tournaments he's won, if you can beat a guy like that on a Sunday afternoon in a major championship, you know you've achieved something in your career.
To see him come up there urged me on even more and put me up to the challenge even more because that's things that you dream of, things that you practice for in this game, to play a guy like that.
To see him come back this year, he's obviously playing a lot better.  We all can see that.  It's good for the game and it's good for us.  To challenge us against a player of that caliber, it can only be beneficial to us if you're up for the challenge.

Q.  I don't know if you've ever played in a pairing with him.  Would you like to be able to have that opportunity to see what that's like?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Yeah, of course I would.  Of course, I would.  Like I say, to challenge yourself against the best that the game's ever seen, I would love to do it.
STEVE ETHUN:  Thank you, Charl, specifically for taking the time this morning to be with us.
STEVE ETHUN:  Good luck in Tucson this week and your preparations for the 2012 Masters.  We look forward to seeing everybody in about 40 days' time.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL:  Thank you very much.

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