Only four golfers in the history of the European Tour have won the same tournament three times in a row, and Charl Schwartzel has a chance of joining that very exclusive group if he can win the Joburg Open again this week.
If he does manage a hat-trick of wins he will join a very short list of players – that includes Ernie Els, Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Ian Woosnam – to have won the same tournament three times in a row. It has never been done in the Joburg Open before.
Schwartzel’s Joburg Open advantage
The South African star has an affinity with the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington course, as he grew up close by and has played it many times in both his amateur and professional careers.
Because of this Schwartzel has the added benefit of being able to sleep in a familiar bed and relax in comfortable surroundings at home – rather than having to stay in a hotel – while he plays in the Joburg Open.
"It is a course I played many times as an amateur and junior so it is always nice to come back. I always have a good feeling when I compete there and staying at home is cool," he said.
Joburg Open contenders
One disadvantage for Schwartzel is that he will be making his 2012 European Tour debut in the Joburg Open, while one of his main competitors and fellow Major winner Retief Goosen is fresh off an impressive third place in the Africa Open.
The Goose hasn’t won on the European Tour since he won the Qatar Masters five years ago, and he will be eager to rectify that statistic as soon as possible.
Former Joburg Open winner Richard Sterne was also very impressive in the Africa Open – even though it was his first tournament in nearly a year – and will definitely be one to keep an eye on this week.
Interestingly, American Rich Beem is also in the field for the Joburg Open this week. The former PGA Championship winner lost his PGA Tour card last year after finishing 207th on the moneylist and failed to re-earn it through Q-school.
The Joburg Open is one of only three tournaments on the European Tour, along with the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Singapore Open, that is competed on more than one course, with both the East and West layouts of the Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club in use for the event.
Schwartzel’s win last year was built around the incredible 61 he shot in the second round, and he eventually took a four-shot victory over the eventual 2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner Garth Mulroy.
Mulroy ended the 2011 season in top form by winning the Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek just before Christmas, but struggled in the Africa Open last week.
Will Goosen be able to take the extra step and break his drought on the European Tour, is Schwartzel just too good at Royal Johannesburg or will one of the youngsters spring a surprise?
Personally I can’t look past Charl for this one. What do you think?