South African Charl Schwartzel was feeling confident and comfortable on the eve of the 2013 Maybank Malaysian Open, and has set his sights on emulating his good friend and compatriot Louis Oosthuizen by lifting the trophy.
Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters Champion, was sixth at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club 12 months ago, six shots behind Oosthuizen, and returns to the Malaysian capital on a high having captured his eighth European Tour title at the start of the season, winning by an incredible 12 shots in the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December
“Any time you win a tournament your confidence is pretty high,” said the 28 year old. “I feel good. I don’t like to put a lot of expectation on myself, as expectation in this game is not a good thing. It creates a lot of anxiety.
“I know I’m playing well and if I play the way I have been, I can compete in any golf tournament. That’s as much as I can ask for. There are so many good players out there you’re not going to win every week, but if you’re there every week you’re going to break through more often. So I’m confident for this week.”
Schwartzel had a long journey from America, and asked what made him keep coming back for more, he replied: “I enjoy playing different places. I was in America for quite a few weeks and I like to break it up. It’s the way I grew up – going from South Africa I always had to travel. I don’t want to be static in one place.
“I’m very comfortable here. I like this golf course and I like the heat a lot more than the cold. The heat does get quite extreme here but it’s still better for me.
“As I said, this golf course is very challenging and you can’t afford any slip-ups. You have to be on top of it the whole time. I’ve been here a few times and haven’t had a win so I’d love to break through and get one.”
Schwartzel’s playing partner in the pre-tournament pro-am was none other than the Queen of Malaysia.
“Her Majesty is a fantastic lady and we had a great time out there,” he said. “She’s a good player. The golf course is pretty long for her but she hit it nicely. She was very friendly and we had some fun out there.”
Joining Schwartzel in Kuala Lumpur for the US$2.75million event is Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, who won here in 2011 for his second European Tour victory.
He then finished tied seventh in defence of his title last year and is hoping the good memories inspire another sparkling performance.
“I’m playing well and I’m happy,” said the 19 year old. “I had a good couple of weeks in America, playing well in tough conditions. It’s been a very nice place for me.
“The course suits me very well. I like it a lot. It’s very well designed and you need to put the ball on the fairway with the driver, rather than hit it long. That suits me. I just really enjoy the event. We stay in a really nice hotel and there’s a lot to do, so it’s a fun event and I feel very comfortable when I come here.”
Of his new lean physique, Manassero added: “During the five weeks I had off in the off-season, I did a lot of running and did a lot of cardio training to lose weight. I lost about 6 kilos. Now I’m trying to put some strength on to put some muscle on.
“When you lose weight it can change the feeling of the swing, especially in the change of direction. On the follow-through, I’m lighter so my hips are turning a little too quickly sometimes. But it’s nice because I feel better and I can produce more speed, which is what we’re working on.”