So, the second tournament on the European Tour this season concludes much as the first did. With the redoubtable Charles Schwartzel lifting the trophy. The Tour makes a pretty favourable start for the season for Schwartzel, a lot of European players have found their home tournaments taken off the schedule - even Englishmen will only have the one chance to play on home soil this season (though it's only a wee run up the road to Scotland for them I guess) whereas young Charlie has had the cheering crowds for both the South African and now the Joburg Open. It'd be unfair to make out he wasn't a richly deserving winner of both however. This title is his fifth on Tour now and he looks to be the latest star ready to emerge from the homeland of Player, Els, Goosen and er, what's his face - looks like he wears mascara... Trevor Immelman (he's a major winner too remember!).
Lass Season he put in some strong performances in these early stages too, always featuring in the weaker fields, but tended to get lost in the shadow of the leading lights when they showed up to play. He stands the chance to become the first player since Seve in '86 to win three on the trot - though the field at Abu Dhabi next time out will be a little stronger. Westwood, Casey, Ogilvy, Stenson, McIlroy, Poulter, Garcia and Kaymer will all be rocking up to spoils Schwartzels party so he will have his work cut out.
This fortnight's play however should be enough to get him where he needs to be to make his Masters debut. Much quoted this week was how low the scorign has been these past two weeks, Schwartzel is 52 under par for his last 11 rounds. Remarkable scoring. Some of the putting I saw him produce over the weekend was nothing short of brilliant. Could this be his year to make his mark in the golfing world? Early days to call that yet...
The fields he has vanquished this last fortnight have been shorn of the big guns, mainly journeymen and some young South African comptriots, with the notable exception of Darren Clarke. The big man had announced his intention to get an early win under his belt and put up a decent fist in his attempt this week. Four behind Schwartzel at the start of the day, Clarkes early part of the round failed to make up the ground required. In the end it was a cracking eagle on the last which allowed him to record a 68 and claim joint second along side the low shooter of the day, homeboy Keith Horne, after his 64.
It is the sort of performance Clarke needed though. He needs to get some strong results in early if he hopes to get himself back into the Majors. Ranked 110th coming into the Joburg Open but still blessed with the talent to be much higher he'll need a few more like this to get where he wants to be. Its a positve start to the year though, hopefully he can keep the momentum going.
And worth a mention, young Englishman Danny Willett finished in a creditable tie for fourth with another South African James Kamte. Fantastic to see a young black player from South Africa doing well - lets hope it inspires more.