MALELANE, South Africa -- After an amazing 11-shot win in Thailand on Sunday, Charl Schwartzel has returned to one of his favorite courses in search of more success this week.
The Alfred Dunhill Championship takes place at Leopard Creek again on the border of the Kruger National Park in his native South Africa. The event is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
ALFRED DUNHILL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Alfred Dunhill Championship host venue Leopard Creek Country Club is right next door to South Africa's famous Kruger National Park.
"If it was any other tournament, I would have pulled out," Schwartzel said Wednesday. "You don't get much better than the setting at Leopard Creek and I figured I could get myself going on that.
"I'm not hitting it that well, but that's just my body being tired. I love being out in the bush and you don't get much more in the bush than this," he added. "It's such a relaxing atmosphere and of top of that the course is in such great shape."
The 28-year-old had his first European Tour win at Leopard Creek eight years ago and has been a runner-up no fewer than four times since then, to Ernie Els and Alvaro Quiros the following two seasons and then behind Pablo Martin in both 2009 and 2010.
Last weekend's win had certainly been coming. Schwartzel was fifth in the South African Open, third behind Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and then second to Martin Kaymer in the Nedbank Challenge at Sun City.
"It's a great feeling winning again," said Schwartzel, who overcame a rib injury suffered during the summer.
"It has been a tough year and very frustrating at times, but the last six weeks things have started feeling a lot better," he explained. "I was able to start getting my swing back to where it should be and the results started showing."
World No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen is also in this week's field -- and it would be no surprise to see him win, either.
The 2010 British Open champion's last six finishes have been fourth, sixth, sixth (all in China), second to Matteo Manassero at the Singapore Open, fifth in Dubai and fourth at the Nedbank.
Also to be settled this week is the end-of-year top 50 in the world ranking, which brings with it an invitation to the Masters next spring. Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark is currently in 50th spot, but isn’t playing this week and is therefore under threat.
So is South Africa's 49th-ranked George Coetzee, who will drop below Olesen if he doesn’t collect any world ranking points at Leopard Creek.
Among those who could overtake him is Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, and two are paired together in the opening two rounds alongside Schwartzel.