Just how big a baby present does Charl Schwartzel owe fellow South African Branden Grace? Depends on what kind of momentum Schwartzel can gin up out of his third-place finish with Louis Oosthuizen at the Zurich Classic.
OK, explaining time.
Grace and Oosthuizen were set to play as a team at TPC Louisiana—they picked “Africa” as their walk-up music and everything—until Grace’s wife, Nieke, went into labor with their first child (she had a baby boy, Roger, on Wednesday). Needing a new partner, Oosthuizen contacted Schwartzel to see if he had interest in playing (at least he wouldn’t have to change the walk-up music). Schwartzel said yes, despite the fact his 2017-’18 season hasn’t been the most memorable. In 10 PGA Tour starts, Schwartzel had finished no better than T-28 and missed the cut in three of his last four appearances. Naturally, he was appreciative of the invite.
“We’ve been friends for 23 years, and it’s nice to play in a professional event together,” Schwartzel said.
Through 27 holes, however, it appeared that the partnership was going to be short-lived. The duo shot a disappointing six-under 66 in first-round four-ball play (six strokes off the lead) and then turned in three over in alternate shot on Friday. But they surged to the clubhouse, making three birdies on the back nine to post an even-par 72 and make the cut by two strokes. And on Saturday, they posted a 10-under 62 in four-balls to jump from outside the top 25 to inside the top 10.
Come Sunday, the duo, playing alternate shot again, made four straight birdies from Nos. 10-13 to get in contention for the title. While falling two strokes short of the winning team of Scott Piercy and Billy Horschel, Schwartzel and Oosthuizen shot a bogey-free 68 to finish in solo third.
“It looked like after nine holes on Friday we were on our way home on the weekend,” Oosthuizen said.
The finish helped push Schwartzel from No. 176 on the FedEx Cup points list to No. 124 (and lifted Oosthuizen from 107 to 80).
“We had a good time,” said Schwartzel of his best finish on the PGA Tour since a T-2 at last summer's FedEx St. Jude Classic. “It’s always nice to play in an event like this, a little different than what we’re playing week in and week out.”
And if Schwartzel is able to build on his week at TPC Louisiana and get on a roll this summer, well, it would seem that little Roger Grace should be in line for something pretty impressive.