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June 14, 2011

Charl Schwartzel


BETH MURRISON: We're happy to have with us this afternoon Charl Schwartzel, who is the reigning Masters winner. He won the Masters back in April in a wonderful come-from-behind fashion. You're playing in your fifth U.S. Open this week, and last year you tied for 16th at Pebble Beach. Can you talk a little bit about returning to a U.S. Open as a major winner.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, thank you very much. For me the U.S. Open was probably the one that I actually thought that I would win first. I always thought it's the one I felt the most comfortable with. It's the one that when I played it, you said it's my fifth one, I've played five over here, it's the one that I felt the most comfortable with.
Coming to this golf course this week, it's another one that feels good to me. It's all in front of me, and I'm actually quite excited about this week.
BETH MURRISON: What is it about U.S. Open course setups that has made it your favorite one and thought you might win first?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Well, I think in a way it's the way they set up the courses, it's normally -- as we know, it's normally very tough. You've got to -- par is a good score, put it that way. And I like courses where I play like that. I feel if I'm playing well, I do make a lot of pars, I can grind out pars, but in courses where you make 20-under par it becomes a putting contest where this actually is a ball-striking contest. I think I'd describe myself as a pretty good ball-striker, and I think -- I like that. Scoring is not low, and playing good golf you always stand a chance.

Q. Have you ever thought so far this year, Grand Slam?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: That's a good feeling. No, that's a nice problem to have there. I'm going to give it my best go, and obviously there's a lot of good players out here this week, as is always in every major. I'm up for the contest.

Q. Louis was just in here and he was talking about how last year after he won The Open that you kind of teased him a couple of times how he was a little different at golf tournaments than he was before he won The Open and maybe dealing with all the stuff and not quite the same guy at the tournaments as he had been before. And now the tables, he said, have kind of turned. He gets to sort of needle you a little bit. What is it about winning a major that makes it a little bit tough to just follow up in the immediate aftermath and be yourself?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: All of a sudden you become very famous. I don't know. You've got golf tournaments which has got a lot of prestige, but obviously the four majors is quite a big level above. That's what everyone plays for. I think at the end of the day your career also gets rated on how many majors you won. That's what we all play for. I think for both of us it is our first major, you're in a big bunch of players and guys trying to do it and all of a sudden you become in almost an elite group. So you're more in the spotlight.
Always I think for anyone that it's their first major it's an adjustment. Maybe that's what he was referring to.

Q. Looking at back at your victory at Augusta, what do you think was the key element in winning that major championship, and is that common, do you think, across all four of them, or what is it that really makes a major championship winner?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: The thing that stood out for me that week was the fact that I was very calm all week, very at ease with myself, very -- I guess I was focused on what I was doing. All of those assets that I had that week I shall say was a big key for me to playing consistent for four days. That's one thing with these tournaments of this stature, there's many, many good golfers. Every single guy I suppose has a chance to win. But the guy that probably can -- that's going to be, I don't want to say smarter, but the guy that can last the longest. These courses, they catch everyone at one stage or another. You're going to have to stay calm, focused, accept things that happen and on top of it play really good golf.

Q. During that stretch of five birdies in a row to finish the tournament --
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I wish it was five.

Q. Four, sorry, seemed like five (laughter). What was going through your mind when you did that? Were you just on the same calm sort of march through there?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I was. You know, afterwards everyone made a big deal of the four birdies. For me while I was doing it I was more concentrated on actually hitting every single shot I had at that stage to the best of my ability. I was two shots behind with four to go, and I was just trying to give myself a chance of winning that golf tournament, standing on 15th fairway. So for me at that stage I was just really focusing on hitting my specific shot at the best of my ability.
It just happened to be that I got into a really good rhythm those last couple holes and I was executing my shots well, which was giving -- I was giving myself really good opportunities at making birdies. And then on top of it I putted well the whole week. I was just making those putts. Before I knew it, standing on 18, I had two putts to win the Masters and I managed to make that one.
So for me it was more about getting the job done, not thinking about just my four birdies. I watched it on TV afterwards and I thought, wow, that was pretty cool.

Q. Louis was just in here and he talked about first meeting you and first playing with you when he was 12 and you were 10. Do you recall that, and what do you remember about that time?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I do. I remember it like yesterday. It felt like yesterday. Well, for me, like you say, I was ten years old and playing my very first South African junior, we call it the SA Boys. And Louis was at that stage quite -- he was an established junior golfer. He was quite a lot better than I was. I was obviously very young.
I got the first tee time on the 10th tee. I was just happy to be there. The guy that was supposed to play with me, he pulled out, and Louis was there very early, way early, two hours before his tee time. And I went up to him and asked if he wants to play, there's a spot open early on. So he said yes. And I found out when I got to the tee that I'm playing with Louis Oosthuizen. And I got really nervous. I mean Louis is like -- Louis, you've got to be joking (laughter), and that's where we met.
I played and I'll never forget after the first hole I think he three-putted the first hole and he had quite a temper on him, he really got cross. And I was very surprised. I looked at my dad and I was like, do you see that? Do you see that? That's what I remember. That's where it all started for us. From there on we started playing quite a lot of golf together, actually.

Q. Can you talk about going from that point to where you are today, both as major champions?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Sometimes we sit back and -- we share a lot of accommodation, houses together, when we're out here. A few times we've sat back and just said, you know, you actually see what we've done, where we came from. We are very proud of it.

Q. Would it be fair to say that the sort of guy you are, you have not allowed yet for the festival of Augusta to distract you too much? To a certain degree, yes. But would it be fair to say that you set yourself to say that it's not going to destroy my whole game for 12 months or for however long, as it's done with several players?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, that was one of my very -- that was one of my goals that I became very conscious of very early on, that I see what it's done to a lot of guys, and I was very aware of it. And I felt that I was going to try my very best to give attention to my game that actually got me there in the first place. You can get distracted very quickly and then subsequently you'll start playing badly, and what's the point of that.
So I really try and give my game first priority over everything and just schedule everything a little bit better so that my golf doesn't go downhill. So far it's worked out really good for me.

Q. I was wondering what memories you might have of Ernie winning here in '97 and obviously what an inspiration he would have been to you as a young golfer.
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I watched it on TV, Ernie winning this tournament. I still remember that second shot he hit in the playoff on the 17th hole, which is the 18th now. I played it last week, Tuesday, was the very first time I've been at Congressional, and we played it, and very scary second shot. I think he came in with a 5-iron, we were hitting 7-irons in there.
I just remember watching it on TV, and obviously he was my hero and we were all just very happy for him. That's as much as I really can recall. I'm still trying to find him somewhere; he seems to be dodging me this week. I want to play a practice round with him, get some tips.

Q. Speaking of that second shot on the 18th hole, could you talk a little bit more about the challenge of that shot, downhill shot?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, I mean, it's a tough shot. We played it the wind was a little down breeze on Tuesday, and we hit 7-iron in. It's one of those -- I think it's one of those holes where -- and there's a few on this golf course, where I wouldn't think it would be the smart move to hit to the flags, and that's one of them. Five yards onto the green would be a yardage to pitch it and probably slightly five in on the right side. And any day of the week I think 4 would be a good score. It's going to be -- it's a tough finishing hole and it could lead to be a very exciting finishing hole, too.

Q. Talk a little bit about how your life has changed since winning the Masters. What's the coolest thing you've experienced since winning the green jacket?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It's wearing the green jacket. That's the coolest thing. Obviously like I've said many times, winning a major championship does definitely change your life. To what extent is very difficult to say. Like I said, most of my -- I just try and carry on as I would normally and just schedule your time better. Your time is a little bit less for yourself but that's not a problem.

Q. There have been a series of -- over the years, less accomplished players to win a major. I'm curious, do you think it's harder to win a major championship than it is to win any tournament on Tour?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I think you can make it a harder thing. I think a lot of guys fall into the trap of thinking it's too important. If you make something too important you can't perform to your ability that you normally would. For me it was -- once again, one of the things that Jack Nicklaus said to me was that he actually found major championships sometimes easier to win than normal events, and that stuck to me, because a lot of guys make it very important and they get more nervous than they would and they don't play their normal game. And if you can overcome that in your head, that it's actually just another golf tournament, one shot means the same as one shot at another golf tournament; you need to get the ball in for the least amount of shots. If you can have that sort of attitude, your natural abilities that you work on week in, week out, will take over and you would perform to your best. And I think a lot of guys get in the way of themselves.

Q. This was your first opportunity really to win a major and you came through in your first time in contention there at the end. Do you think that will make it easier for you, that you didn't have sort of that little scar tissue of a close call that some guys will have to deal with over and over and over again?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, I think -- I do think so. It makes it easier that I have won, and like you say, I don't have the heartache to get over. I don't know what to say, actually.

Q. You mentioned putting on the green jacket. Do you do it often? Do you wear it to occasions? How often do you think you've put that thing on since April? And what is it like? Do you have fun with it?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, it travels with me wherever I go. We only get to keep it for a year and then you leave it in your locker. So instead of leaving it say in South Africa and only seeing it every two months, I go home about every two months, what's the point of that? So I just travel with it every week. I see it every day. You obviously don't put it on every day, but you see it and sometimes you just stare at it for a while.

Q. How friendly are you with Rory McIlroy, and have you ever talked about that Sunday in Augusta with him?
CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, very friendly with Rory. We spend some time together. I think we both sort of are professional about it. He's a guy that gets over things very quickly. You don't want to rub in things. I wouldn't go and -- I wouldn't go in front of him and speak about my good finish and whatever he did. We had chances to do the same thing. It could have gone either way. It could have been either of us, really. And we get on with it, and hopefully we have that same thing this week.
BETH MURRISON: Charl, thanks very much for visiting us today. It was a pleasure having you here and we wish you well this week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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