The DigestApril 11, 2011

South Africa's Next Big Thing

Tim Clark won the Players Championship in May, and Trevor Immelman was the 2008 Masters champion. But if you want to know which South African golfer will most likely follow legendary countrymen Gary Player and Ernie Els, just listen to the legends themselves.

"Charl Schwartzel. If he practices like an animal, eats properly, exercises and keeps a positive mind-set, he can win at least one major," says Player, who won nine of them.

Adds Els, who has won three: "I think Charl is a tremendous talent. You're going to see the next superstar out of South Africa, basically."

Els, Schwartzel's childhood hero, got an up-close look at his ability earlier this year. Charl (pronounced "Sharl") and Els played together in the final round of the CA Championship in March. Els pulled away on the final few holes, but Schwartzel's runner-up finish ($850,000) virtually assured he would make enough money to earn his first PGA Tour card next year. Just like Player and Els, Schwartzel is well-traveled and seems to enjoy success everywhere he plays. His career began to take off on South Africa's Sunshine Tour, where he won the Order of Merit money title three consecutive years from 2005-'07. He has also won five times on the European tour (including twice this year) and has a chance to win that tour's Order of Merit. Now that he has moved into the top 25 in the World Golf Ranking, Schwartzel, who turns 26 on Aug. 31, says his next goal is to win on the PGA Tour and, yes, a major, too.

Although he's only 5-foot-11, 145 pounds, Schwartzel's success comes from a combination of power--he averages 295 yards off the tee--and a knack for scoring. (His stroke average on the European tour so far this year is 69.07.)

"It's a blend of experience and confidence that's helping me," says Schwartzel, who calls himself a farm boy yet carries a pilot's license and flies a single-engine Cessna. "I really feel like things will only get better."