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April 10, 2011

Charl Schwartzel


CRAIG HEATLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to introduce to you the 2011 Masters Champion, Charl Schwartzel.
Charl, I had an e-mail from one of your compatriots, Mr. Rupert, some time ago, saying, "Tell everyone in the media center to learn how to spell the name Schwartzel, because you'll be seeing him down here rather often."
Congratulations, that was a wonderful performance this afternoon. Would you like to just share one or two thoughts before we throw it to the floor for questions?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, thank you very much. I hope you guys did learn. (Laughter).
It's such a special feeling. I don't even know where to start. This morning, obviously I've never been in sort of a situation like that in a major, and I felt surprisingly very calm. You know, I think Rory must have had lots of pressure on him, to be leading by that far.
I don't remember who told me -- but someone said -- oh, it was Justin Rose that said, "You have nothing to lose and everything to gain." Just sort of calmed myself as much as I could and from the word go on the first hole, things started going for me. You know, it's always nice when things start in the right direction.

Q. Just talk about those first two holes, and we need a club and yardage for the hole-out from the fairway. And skipping ahead to the back nine, it must have been impossible to keep track of everything that was going on around you, what it was like to be in that experience?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: The chip shot, I think it would have been a pretty straightforward shot if it wasn't for all of the people that had trampled it. Normally I'm very good with a lob-wedge and I was forced to use a little 6-iron and run it up the hill. I thought if I can get it as far right as possible, the slope will feed it back.
As it hit the green, it started looking good. You know, I don't think I've ever heard a roar that loud around me. It was just a great way to start. Obviously around the third hole, I had exactly 114 yards, which was a perfect sand wedge for me. I played so many practice rounds there, I knew you just have to hit it up the right side and let the spin take it. I had the wind in my favor. The wind was slightly off the right.
Obviously we can't see anything from back where I was, and it looked good as it pitched and just feel it from the crowd; you could hear it getting closer and closer, and it disappeared.

Q. The way that the leaderboard was jumping all through the back nine, did you think it would take something as spectacular as birdieing the last four holes in a row to win this thing? And secondly, when was the time that you had your lunch with Jack Nicklaus and he was going through how to play all the holes out here?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: To answer your first question, there's so many roars that go on around Augusta. Especially the back nine. It echoes through those trees. There's always a roar. Every single hole you walk down, someone has done something, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking at the leaderboard. But sometimes I would look at it and not register what I was looking at, and I think that sort of helped.
I knew going up 15, that's the first time that I saw Adam Scott had made a couple of birdies, and Jason Day. From there on, I knew it was now or never, you have to start hitting some good shots and converting them.
I thought my 6-iron down 15 was going to be really close. It looked good and just obviously it went over the back but that was a big putt for me. I had made so many pars in a row, sometimes you fall into a habit of just making pars. You just can't get out of it and that sort of got me out of it. I just started hitting really good iron shots which gave me lots of opportunities, which I converted, which is a really good feeling.
The lunch with Mr. Nicklaus, that was actually setup by Mr. Rupert. It was at Ernie's Autism Golf Day last year, and I went to go sit with Mr. Rupert and he introduced me to Jack. I've never met Jack. I was really excited. I knew he sort of liked hunting a little bit. That's the way I got the conversation going, just by talking about hunting.
And he, Mr. Rupert, said to him, "Can you maybe take Charl, just give him a few tips to play Augusta." Just thinking it's going to be just a vaguely quick little thing, and he actually took the time to take me through all 18 holes the way he used to think around Augusta and the way he used to play it, which flags he used to attack.
The big thing for me was I had never, ever seen Augusta. Now, he's taking me through -- (laughter) -- he's taking me through how to play Augusta. I've only seen it on TV. And now I'm in the presence of Mr. Nicklaus, and it's such a big awe. I'm just staring at it and taking in what I can.
But luckily Mr. Rupert was taking a lot of notes, so afterwards we had it all.
CRAIG HEATLEY: You're a pretty quick learner.

Q. Last summer, your countryman, Louis Oosthuizen --
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Oosthuizen (laughter).

Q. We know about the academy, coming from Ernie's academy and such, but what kind of inspiration was that for you?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: That was a huge inspiration. To see Louis win The Open Championship the way he did, you know, we grew up together from a young age. We played every single team event, tournament against each other, and we represented South Africa for so long.
You know, we always travelled together, so we basically are the best of mates. You know, to see him win there was just such a big inspiration. We play almost every single practice round together, as well.
So we know where our level of golf is, and just to see him do it made it, in my mind, realize that it is possible, and just sort of maybe take it over the barrier of thinking that a major is too big for someone to win.

Q. How do you think this major is going to change your life and also the fact that you have a place at this Champions Dinner table for probably as long as you live?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I've got to find some way to bring biltong into this country.
I mean, it's been such a short time to think about what can happen. Like I said, it's a dream for me. It's obviously the highlight in my golfing career by a long way. You know, I always thought if there was one that I would win, it would be this one. This is the sort of golf course that suits my eye. These are the sort of courses that I grew up on playing with the tree lines, and I just feel really comfortable around it.
Last year I had problems with the putting. I found the greens were just so quick that, yeah, it was -- I've never hit the putts so soft from 40 feet and I struggled with that.
This year, Nick Price gave me a really good tip, so did David Frost. Nick said when he came over, he used to find the fastest putt on every green and practice that and that's what I did for the last three weeks. Every tournament I went to, I just practiced the fastest putt I could find, even though they were only five feet, to learn to hit the putts that softly. It really paid off. I felt so good on these greens this week.

Q. You're going to be with Rory this coming week; what can you say to him after today?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I mean, it's difficult. What do you say? He's such a good player. He's going to win a major sometime. Obviously things didn't go his way today. The way he played the first three rounds, you have to think that a win is not that far away.
Golf is a really funny game. One moment you're on top of it and the next it bites you. He's such a phenomenal player. He'll win one.

Q. Just to follow up, how do you think Rory will react to what happened to him today?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: He's going to be disappointed. I mean whatever it is, sometimes there's nothing you can say. He's going to feel hurt. Yeah, he'll feel hurt. It's not easy, what he's went through now.
But like I said, he's a good enough player to come back out and win.

Q. 11 straight pars after the eagle. What happened on 15?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, like I said, those 11 pars were through Amen Corner, grabbed them with both hands. Those were big. If you can start the back nine well -- obviously I saw Tiger was making such a big charge, and I think he bogeyed No. 12. We were figuring that he was going to birdie a couple of the par 5s. He just needed -- he couldn't throw any shots away, so par sometimes wasn't a bad score. So I wasn't feeling at all disappointed with the 11 pars I made. I wasn't losing any ground but I wasn't gaining.
Like I said, 15 was a good tee shot for me. 15 suited me all week. I hit a great tee shot down there that went past a little bit and gave myself a perfect angle in with a 6-iron. That was big. I needed to make birdie there. Obviously the guys are starting to make birdies, and you know, that was when I really needed to start digging deep to get a birdie out of it.
The putt on 16 was good. 16 was another one where I hit a few in the practice round and just knew exactly how much it turns.

Q. Many people have said that Ernie Els's game was perfectly suited to Augusta National. Could you ever have believed you would slip on the green jacket before Ernie?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I mean -- no. Ernie, also, he's had some fantastic Masters performances; some that's been stolen out of his hands you could say. Sometimes that's the way it goes. He won a U.S. Open and British Opens. It's not like he can't win any majors. He's more than capable of winning them. Sometimes things just don't go your way.
But to answer your question, I didn't think I was going to put on a green jacket before him.

Q. Is there anybody back in South Africa you would like to dedicate this to?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: My dad; my dad and my mom, they have played such a big role in my life. Especially my dad with my golf. He's put endless time into it. It was never an effort for him. He taught me my golf swing. He made it very simple for me, which I believe is a fantastic recipe; when you get too technical, things can become difficult.
As simple as possible under pressure works. So if I dedicate it, I would like to dedicate it to my dad.

Q. Have you ever been involved in a tournament with such a crowded, crazy leaderboard on the back nine? Seven, eight, nine guys had a piece of the lead at some point?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: No. I mean -- it's my first win in America here. I've not been around when it's been that tight.
But it was always going to be. I mean, if it wasn't for Rory that was leading by four, you look at the leaderboard, there was a whole bunch of guys that could have won today. So I mean, it was always going to come down to the back nine, who made the birdies coming in. That's normally what wins any golf tournament is the back nine. It managed to go my way.

Q. What were the lengths on those four birdie putts, and what was kind of the emotions you were feeling on that run?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: The birdie putt on 15, I would say was eight feet. I felt good over that putt. I felt good over every single one of them.
I think I just had so much confidence in my putting at that stage that I knew if I can relax, you know, my hands, that I would be able to make a proper stroke.
And I was able to do that every time just before when I stood over the ball or got myself really calm, which is something you need to do when you putt. I think that comes a little -- I'm proud of myself, because that comes from quite a lot of practicing that I was able to do that.
But on 16, gosh, I don't know, maybe 15 feet, somewhere around there. Swinging about a foot and a half from the right.
The putt on 17 was about 12 feet, a little bit from the left, sort of left-edge putt.
And then obviously the putt on 18, I don't know, I'm guessing 14, 15 feet.

Q. You were talking about your father being your swing coach. I wonder, when did that start as far as formal instruction, and what are the principles he taught, and can you talk about handling pressure with your putter -- how do you handle pressure with your swing, because it seemed like you didn't make a bad swing all day except for maybe the first hole?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: My dad taught me from the start, when I was four years old, I played my first nine holes. He told me from the word go the right grip, the right stance, rhythm, posture, balance. There's five key things that we always worked on.
Whenever something goes wrong, it will be one of those five that have gone haywire somewhere. He always kept it simple. You know, it's difficult to say, pressure -- pressure is something that you learn. You've got to really try and force yourself to stay in the present, which is very difficult around here. There's so many people and so many roars that go up. That's the biggest thing. You've got to breathe. Sometimes you forget to breathe. (Laughter).

Q. At any point coming up 18 did you have to calm your nerves or thought you had to play safe on the putt or approach shot or the drive, any point on 18?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Whenever you're standing on the 18th tee with a one-shot lead coming up Augusta, it's not easy (laughing).
That little tunnel going through there gets very narrow. The whole week, I've hit 3-woods to take the bunkers out of play and I just felt that I needed to hit a driver. I've been hitting my driver well and I decided I'm just going to lash it. I hit it way up there. We only had 130 yards to the flag, which was an absolute perfect wedge for me, which also made it easier knowing that it's just a stock, standard wedge.
We hit thousands of wedges in our lives. You sort of think back on those, all of the good ones you've hit. So it was just a good wedge for me. I couldn't hit it long. It was 150 yards to get it over the slope, so it was always going to come back down if I hit it too hard. It was just a good yardage for me. Felt good over it.

Q. Background for those of us who have not written about you, is the chicken farm still up and going, and how did you escape working on it?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I mean, I still live there. My dad -- well, my dad's got a chicken farm, which actually sells eggs, and we also have corn. My grandfather started it, so it comes through families. I used to help. I love being on a farm. Used to drive the tractors and do all of those things when I was a youngster. That was just something that I liked.
But obviously my dad was a big golfer, and we used to play -- he used to play golf Wednesday, Fridays, Saturdays, just about every single week. And I used to caddie for him on the Wednesday and Saturday competitions and played with him on the Fridays and that's how it started.

Q. You touched on this in the green jacket ceremony; how important was it to play with K.J. Choi today for your calmness?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I think it helps also being in the second to last group. There's a lot of factors. It still doesn't make it easy. You've still got to do it.
Just the way K.J. plays, he's such a -- he always looks calm. You know, his golf swing never changes. He doesn't get all too excited on the course. And all of those sort of things helps when you're around a guy. You can feed off each other with those sort of things, and we both just sort of do our thing.
Sometimes someone gets really excited and talks a lot and it can distract if you're not that sort of player. I think that helped. K.J. also played good today. I mean, he really did. So he also kept me on my toes. Couldn't make any mistakes.
That's about it, yeah.
CRAIG HEATLEY: Charl, in conclusion, would you mind just going through hole-by-hole your card, what you hit into each hole for us, please.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I hit 3-wood off the first which I did the whole week. I pushed my 6-iron to the right of the green. And then used a 6-iron to chip it in. That was the first.
The second, I hit a beautiful tee shot down there. I hit 5-iron in and again I just leaked it into the bunker. Thought I hit a good bunker shot and never came back down the hill. Missed the putt.
And then the third hole, I hit 4-iron off the tee, which left me with that sand wedge, which obviously I made.
The fourth hole, hit 5-iron on to the left side of the green but left myself with -- I needed binoculars to see the holes. It was a long way away. I 3-putted. I think that was my only bogey of the day.
The fifth hole, 3-wood, take the bunkers out of play, which I did the whole week. I hit 7-iron, pitched into the slope, came back down and maybe another couple of yards, had a very good 2-putt.
No. 6, I hit 7-iron. Tried to hit it for the back slope and let the slope bring it back down. Didn't quite get it all the way up but still was about 20 feet away. Made par.
3-wood down 7. Hit an 8-iron which I thought was absolutely perfect and somehow stayed on top of the slope. Never came down and made a really good 2-putt.
No. 8, I hit driver down there. I hit 5-wood and it went over the back of the green. And over the back is just an impossible chip. That green was really firm. It went maybe 12 feet by. Hit a good putt, but it never broke.
No. 9, I hit driver down there which left me with another perfect yardage for a wedge. Hit a good wedge to maybe 12 feet right of the hole. Left it in the throat. Actually hit a good putt.
3-wood on 10. 7-iron on to the sort of front half of the green. 2-putted.
11, I hit a beautiful tee shot. I hit 9-iron into 11. I hit a horrible first putt, miss-read it completely, and then made a really good return.
12, I hit 9-iron. 12 was playing really short today. 9-iron, went over the back of the green. Luckily it stopped short of the bunker so I could putt it. Managed to make a good 2-putt from there.
13, I didn't feel comfortable. 13, I hit 3-wood all week but decided to hit a 5-wood just to make it a three-shotter so I don't tempt myself. I hit 5-wood up the right side and laid up with an 8-iron that left me 70 yards with a lob-wedge, which I thought was a pretty good shot up the slope, spun it back down, maybe 13 feet below the hole. Hit a good putt, never broke.
14, 3-wood again off the tee. Hit 7-iron, which I thought was a good shot, got it below the hole on 14. Another really good putt which stopped in the throat.
Then 15, driver down the fairway, left me -- I mean, I had 220, which I hit 6-iron, and still went over the back.
But I mean, just went over the back. Chipped, nearly went in and made that 8-footer coming back which was really important for me.
8-iron up 16. Obviously that was about -- I can't remember, 15 feet below the hole. Just a really good putt.
17, driver. Blocked by the trees. Would have been wedge for me, and had to hit a little 9-iron with a touch of cut on it, which I thought just worked absolutely perfect. Rolled up to the hole there and made a good putt.
Then driver up 18,133 yards, pitching wedge to about 14 feet. Sound pretty simple if you think about it like that. (Laughter).
CRAIG HEATLEY: Charl, congratulations, our 2011 Masters Champion. Wonderful performance.

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