South African sizzle


Charl Schwartzel’s strong play continues here in the States. The 25-year-old South African tied for third Sunday at the Shell Houston Open, just one shot outside of the playoff between Anthony Kim and Vaughn Taylor. That’s his third top-10 in four starts in the U.S. this year, which includes a runner-up finish to fellow countryman Ernie Els at the WGC-CA Championship.

On the European Tour Schwartzel has dominated this season, winning two of his eight starts – the Africa Open and the Joburg Open – and also finishing runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Championship. He’s in control of the Race to Dubai where highly touted top players Els, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey have been forced to chase after him in their quest to become Europe’s No. 1 player.

All four of them will be in Augusta this week, but for Schwartzel it’s his first trip to the Masters. With the way he’s playing and his ability to compete against the best in the world in some of the strongest fields, Schwartzel is definitely one to watch this week.

But so is Els. The Big Easy has two victories in his last three starts and despite a less than stellar week in Houston (T44), he carded a 69 Sunday, a round that included five birdies. That’s a good taste to have in your mouth as you head into Augusta. And so is a T-3 finish that’s just one-shot shy of being in a playoff at the final event before the year’s first major.