Schwartzel posts best finish since 2011 victory

It hasn’t been an easy road for Charl Schwartzel at Augusta National Golf Club since his win in 2011, but this year’s finish left a smile on his face.

The South African carded 4-under-par 68 for the second consecutive round Sunday to finish alone in third at 6-under, three strokes behind the playoff duo of Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose.

Schwartzel’s standing was easily his best since slipping on the green jacket six years ago. His previous best was a tie for 25th in 2013, and he had missed the cut two of the past three years.

“This tournament, I think you can have lots of those ups and downs, because if you get on the wrong side of it on this golf course, you’re really struggling, and you can have years where it goes your way,” Schwartzel said. “I’ll be here for many more and hopefully challenge that lead a lot more.”

Schwartzel not only logged his best finish since 2011, he posted his first round in the 60s since that year, and he did it twice in the final two rounds. After three birdies and an eagle in the third round, he carded six birdies Sunday to cap a promising week.

He rode a strong week of putting to the high finish, ranking third in strokes gained putting among the field. He paired it with solid iron play and finished 11th in greens in regulation.

He also gained by getting better weather for the weekend. A tough first two days that saw heavy wind gusts led to rounds of 74 and 72.

“Those first two days were difficult and you had to really hang in there,” he said. “Then we got this good weather on the weekend. I was fortunate to play really good golf. I putted beautifully this week. I took advantage of it.”

Perhaps the highlight of his final round came at No. 11, which ranked as the toughest hole Sunday. He knocked his approach to 10 feet and rolled in the birdie putt, one of only five birdies at the hole for the final round.

Schwartzel added a birdie on 9 by hitting his approach to three feet, and he finished strong with a 23-foot birdie putt on 18. He took advantage of the par-5s with birdies on 2, 13 and 15.

Reach David Lee at (706) 823-3216 or david.lee@augustachronicle.com.

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