Reigning US Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel’s New Year’s Resolution is to follow-up the best season of his career by becoming the first South African to win the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which runs January 26-29 on Abu Dhabi Golf Club’s National Course.
Having started 2011 by defending his Johannesburg Open title, Schwartzel’s historic year – which ended with him ranked world number nine - included a maiden Major victory, a debut Presidents Cup appearance and representing his homeland in golf’s world cup.
While winning the Masters’ iconic Green Jacket was the undoubted season highlight, it was overall consistency that underscored Schwartzel’s breakthrough year on the European PGA Tour. As well as posting nine top 10 finishes, he made the cut in all four Majors, completing the 16 rounds in 1,118 shots – 10 fewer than his closest rival, Steve Stricker. Repeating that consistency, believes Schwartzel, is key to his Abu Dhabi hopes.
“The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship gets tougher each year,” he said. “This event has one of the strongest fields outside of the Major championships. With three Major winners and the four most recent world number ones, you’re going to see some very special golf and the winner will fully deserve the title. Hopefully I can continue my form and that winner will be me.”
Alongside Schwartzel, the other Major holders in what is arguably the strongest field ever assembled for a Middle East tournament are Rory McIlroy (US Open) and Darren Clarke (British Open), while current world number one, Luke Donald, and former world number ones Lee Westwood and Tiger Woods - making his Abu Dhabi debut – also feature.
Add into the mix the past two Abu Dhabi champions Martin Kaymer (2008, 2010, 2011) and Paul Casey (2007, 2009), along with young Australian sensation, Jason Day, and Korean powerhouse, KJ Choi, and Schwartzel’s path to the Falcon trophy is strewn with hurdles. The South African’s confidence, however, is not in short supply.
“Last year was my best year ever,” added Schwartzel. “There was nothing to complain about, no negatives. It was a year of good and consistent performances. The biggest challenge will be to improve on this in the new year and winning in Abu Dhabi would be a great way to start!”
With an announcement regarding the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship’s future host venue expected on the final day of this year’s play (January 29), another incentive driving Schwartzel is returning to the emirate in
12 months time as defending champion when the tournament may be held at the Gary Player designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Club – which, alongside Yas Links Golf Club, is in the running to host the 2013 event.
“I obviously know Gary very well and I know he is very proud of what he has achieved at Saadiyat from both playing and environmental perspectives,” said Schwartzel. “It would be a fantastic feeling coming back next year as champion knowing that we’ll be playing Gary’s course – it would be a great moment for South African golf.”