Young gun Schwartzel shoots sparkling 64

CHARL SCHWARTZEL, a South African youngster who will celebrate his 19th birthday on August 31 (the same day Padraig Harrington turns 32), lit up The K Club yesterday when he shot a remarkable eight under par 64 to get within one stroke of joint leaders Phillip Price and Darren Clarke at the halfway stage of the Smurfit European Open.

Schwartzel became the second youngest player to secure his European Tour card through the qualifying school last November when, at the age of 18 years and 2 months, he claimed 24th place at Emporda and Pals Golf Clubs in Spain. He arrived at the school as a highly promising amateur with victories in the Brabazon Trophy (English stroke play championship) and representing South Africa in the Eisenhower Trophy in Malaysia. He also tied 15th in the South African Open.

Interestingly, though, he finished 16 strokes behind his compatriot Louis Oozthuizen in the AIB Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin last year.

“There were a lot of expectation on me at the beginning but I didn’t play so well in the last three or four week so it seemed like the attention was going away a little”, said the lightweight (9 st 12 lbs, 5 ft 11 ins) Johannesburg-born Schwartzel.

“The pressure went off and that calmed me down a little. On Thursday I holed nothing but today I made just about everything I looked at. My father came over yesterday and because he is my coach, it is doubly good to have him here. I didn’t know what to expect but it has been nice. Every week is a new course but I get to know them quickly. It would be easier if I had played them before but there is nothing I can do about that.”

Schwartzel is currently 94th in the order of merit after 15 tournaments with €117,716 and could well clinch his card over the next couple of days. South Africa has produced a steady stream of really great golfers with Bobby Locke, Gary Player and Ernie Els springing readily to mind. This young man looks set to join them if yesterday is a reliable yardstick. He eagled his first hole, the 10th., with a drive and three wood to 25 feet and also birdied the 15th., 16th., 4th., 5th., 7th. and 8th.

Colin Montgomerie had ups and downs in a round of 71 but on five under par must still be in with a decent chance of winning his first European Open. Retief Goosen and Bernhard Langer are both one stroke worse off while Lee Westwood showed some good form as he battled to a 71 to finish three below par.

Dubliner Peter Lawrie lost his chance of making the cut when he took a double bogey six at the 16th.

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