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Schwartzel Hosts Champions Dinner; Ready to Defend Masters Title


Charl Schwartzel came out of nowhere in the 2011 Masters. Though his effortless, rhythmic swing was widely appreciated by the cognoscenti, the son of a South African chicken farmer still astounded the golf world when he birdied the final four holes on Sunday for a 6-under 66 that overcame a four-stroke deficit and resulted in a two-shot victory and his first green jacket fitting.

But the 27-year-old, who dabbles on both the PGA and European tours, showed that the Masters' win was no fluke. He had success in the year's other majors, finishing ninth in the U.S. Open, 16th in the British Open and 12th in the PGA Championship.

Per tradition, Schwartzel hosted the Champion's Dinner on Tuesday night of Masters' week. The menu was a South African barbecue and included filet mignon, lamb chops, chicken breast, a South African sausage called boerewors, potatoes, green beans and sweet corn. The repast was completed with ice cream sundaes.

Adding "interest" was that the meat was served with something called "monkey gland sauce." The sauce sounds, uh, exotic, but it actually consists of onions, garlic, tomatoes and chutney, with some dashes of Worcestershire and Tabasco.

Schwartzel originally wanted to do the meat-grilling himself but was talked out of it. "I wasn't sure exactly how the dinner would go, so I made a suggestion that I cook the meat," he said Tuesday before the dinner. "But then they explained to me that it's only a short time and you mix with all of the guys.

"And then I realized, you know, I don't really want to do it because then I'm not going to get to talk to everyone. I don't want to get too much oil on my green jacket, either."

Schwartzel admitted he was a bit anxious about how his meal - the winner the prior year always gets to choose the following Champions Dinner menu - would be received by the other former champions in attendance. "I think it's going to be an unbelievable evening. But there is a bit of nerves that come with it," he said. "I'm really looking forward to it."

The defending champion's Q&A on Tuesday covered a wide variety of subjects, from former South African Masters' winners to the state of his game heading into Thursday's opening round to, yes, monkey gland sauce. Here's what Schwartzel had to tell reporters during that interview session.

MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It's a great honor and pleasure to welcome back our 2011 Masters champion, Charl Schwartzel. As you remember, Charl made a memorable and historical charge to win the Tournament and was awarded his first green jacket and making him the third winner from South Africa. We are happy to have you return to our interview room. It was a great moment the last time you were here. Before we open to questions, can you tell us how your preparations are coming as defending champion for this year's event.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Thank you. It's fantastic to be back. I've started preparing a couple of weeks ago, and everything feels like it's falling into place for me. My golf swing after the Florida Swing with a bit of wind felt like it was a bit suspicious, and I started working on it again for the last two weeks, and it really feels very good. I played last week. Obviously I missed the cut by a shot. But I wasn't too fazed because honestly my golf swing felt good. I knew if I could get my putting in place, I'm pretty much on track like I was last year.

Q. Just kind of curious, how has your life changed since you won last year?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I seem to get this question quite often. (Smiling.) To be honest, I hope that I didn't change as a person. It doesn't feel like I changed as a person. Obviously the only thing that's changed is that every time I enter into a major championship now, I've got the confidence that I can win one. I think that was a major thing for me golfing related. I now feel that every time I pitch up at a big, major event, that I can win. That's a pretty good feeling.

Q. How often since you left here last year do you reflect on how amazing the finish was for you, birdie, birdie, birdie finish?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: When I finished that Sunday, I wasn't even conscious of the four birdies that I just made. I was just over the moon putting on the green jacket. And then obviously afterwards, everyone started going on about the four birdies that I made. I went home and I watched it, and it looked pretty spectacular on the TV (laughing.)

Q. Would you think as tight as folks are talking about this year's tournament is going to be, all of the better players playing as good as they are right now, would you think it would take something that spectacular this year on Sunday for somebody to close it out and win it?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: You know, I think with so many guys playing so good that it's obviously going to, I think, come down to a tight finish again. I think this tournament over the years has always had some electrifying finishes over the last nine holes, and I don't see why this year is going to be any different. It's going to come down to the guy that finishes off the best back nine on Sunday.

Q. How many times have you been back to Augusta to practice since last year? And secondly, what's it like to step back onto these grounds during tournament week with galleries and so forth? Reflect on what it's like to be back here.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I came here the Thursday before Houston. I got to play with a Member called Nick Evans, and he hosted myself, my dad, and my brother. So that was the very first time I came back. That was a special day for me to be able to play out here with my brother and my dad. And, you know, Nick was fantastic. I came out here and I played, did some work, got a good feel for it. Then obviously yesterday I played 18 holes again with all of the people around. You know, every single time you come back to this place, even before I won, it gave you a different feel to any other event. Driving down Magnolia Lane as a champion, that definitely gave me a tingle down my spine.

Q. How are the preparations going for the dinner? And last we talked with you on the conference call, you talked about having it a do it yourself barbecue. What are the chances of that happening?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It's going well, I hope (laughter). There's no turning back now. No, we have got everything in place. I've got all variety of meat. I've got some good ice cream with chocolate sauce. That's what I'm looking forward to the most (laughter).

Q. You said you wanted to have everybody cook. Are they going to let you do that?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I think that story got carried away a little bit. I wasn't sure exactly how the dinner would go, so I had made a suggestion, if I could maybe cook the meat. But then they explained to me that it's only a little short time and you mix with all of the guys. And then I realized, well, you know, I don't really want to do it because then I'm not going to get to talk to everyone. I don't want to get too much oil on my green jacket, either.

Q. I notice on your menu, you have monkey gland sauce on there. Can you tell me what that is? And by the way, how does it taste?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It's got nothing related to the name. There's no monkey and there's no gland (laughing). It is a sauce that's pretty familiar in South Africa in all the restaurants. You put it over your meat. It's a bit of chutney Worcester sauce and some onion. I had the chef yesterday bring me a sample, and even he said he was a bit surprised. He was a bit suspicious about it and he tasted it, and he said yeah, it's good sauce that you just put over your meat.

Q. About the dinner tonight, are you nervous getting ready to host a pretty exclusive group of guys? And what do you expect to sort of get out of the evening with them? And also, where did you get the biltong?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I am nervous, to be honest. I am nervous and very excited. I'm going to be around obviously past champions and legends that I never got to see play. You know, we see the highlights of how these guys did it, and I'm going to be in a room with them. I think it's going to be an unbelievable evening. But there is a bit of nerves that come with it. I'm really looking forward to it. And the biltong side of it, we got some out of Atlanta. There's a South African that helped us, and we got the biltong over.

Q. When you made your fourth straight birdie and walked off 18, you really did not know you had just made four straight birdies?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: When that putt disappeared on 18, honestly the last thing that went through my mind is that I made my fourth straight birdie. It was, I just won the green jacket.

Q. If you were not conscious of that, is that the zone? Can you talk about the process?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: That is exactly it. You get caught up in the moment. You are pushing to finish on top of the leaderboard, and, you know, you're not focused on how you're doing it. You're just down there hitting every single shot you can to the best of your ability. I mean, you know you need to make birdies, but that's not the main focus.

Q. Just you've had a year now for it to sink in, the magnitude of it all, what it means to you, your family, your loved ones back home, fellow South Africans, can you give us a few thoughts on the last 12 months, how they have been for you?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It has been pretty overwhelming. You know, my life basically changed overnight there. When I got back home, I didn't realize how big it was, how many people actually saw it. Wherever I went, people congratulated, and still do. It doesn't seem to ease down. It doesn't stop, and it's fantastic. I just feel like I'm very blessed to have achieved what I did, and hopefully I've got a few more in me.

Q. Do you have any particular strategies that you are going to follow this week as you approach this round different from last year?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Not really. Hopefully just not needing to make four birdies to get into the lead. I'm going to approach it pretty much the same. It's always weather-dependent. I've played a few rounds now, and I'm hitting the same clubs on the same holes and trying to get the same thought processes as I had. But I'm not trying to change anything. Just trying to get the game in shape and hit each shot to the best of my ability.

Q. Going back to the dinner and food, you got me all hungry now. The South African braai, they talk about braai with the traditions of that with good mates and family. Is that kind of the basis for your sort of hosting?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, that was the idea was to have a braai. To the guys who are not familiar with it, you guys have a barbecue. We call it a braai in South Africa. It's really a sociable thing in South Africa. I would say everyone does it; 90 percent of the people in South Africa have braais just about every single weekend.

Q. Last year you were a little under the radar because it was only your second Masters, and this year you're top 10 in the world. Do you still feel a little under the radar because there's been so much conversation about Tiger and Rory and Phil and Luke? Do you feel like maybe -

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: To be honest, I don't look into those things. You know, I mean, there's a lot of talk now. Tiger has obviously won again and he's really playing very good. Rory is playing well. Phil is playing well; Luke; all of the guys. But to me, I go about my business as I normally do, and I feel - and I know, if I play my best, I can compete with anyone. So, you know, that's the way I look at it.

Q. You came here twice before. 2010 was your first year, whatever your expectations were, first-time Masters. You probably came in with a different set of expectations in 2011. Talk about as a defending champion. Do you just try to say, go out and play my best golf, or do you have different expectations of yourself?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I think always in the back of your mind now, basically forever you have a different mindset coming into this event knowing that you've won. My first year I finished 30th, I was very pleased with it, my first year out. My second, you're always trying to win. Whenever you play, you're trying to win. But when it actually happens, it came quickly. I mean, I knew I could win but didn't realize it was going to happen that quickly. But now all of a sudden that I've done it, I almost expect myself to win. I feel like I'm playing good enough. I feel like if I've done it before, why can't I do it again. I think you've got to be careful so that your mind doesn't run away with you and really stay in the present. But I think it still is a good thing to think that way. I don't think a lot of guys really believe they can win.

Q. When you came here last year, did you feel like, I need to get a few of these under my belt before I can contend? People talk about the importance of that.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yes and no. I felt like I knew the course pretty well. I've played it quite a few times and honestly feel that it's a golf course that you have to play a lot. There's no substitute for standing on the driving range and hitting balls. You need to get out there on the golf course and you need to know, before each shot that you hit, what is out there. There's no other way than to play it over and over and over. I think that's why people say the more you play it, the more chance you've got of succeeding. But obviously last year I hit the right shots at the right time, and things went for me. You need things to go for you. Maybe I was fortunate to win it on my second appearance out. But it does help to play it over and over. The more you play it, the more chance you've got of succeeding.

Q. As a Major winner, the demands on your time increase so greatly. I wonder how you've handled those, and did you seek anybody's advice about how to do so.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I have not really seeked anyone's advice. I'm the type of person that normally sits back and looks at what other people do and learn by their mistakes or by the things they do right. I saw a lot of guys that win majors where their attention gets away from the golf, and that was one of the things that I really tried not to do, that I still give the golf the attention it needed. That was obviously what got me there in the first place. My time got less, but we scheduled everything well and it has not been a burden for me. It's worked out well, and I've enjoyed every moment.

Q. Talk about having Gary Player back as an Honorary Starter, and is there a chance you might sit next to him at the dinner?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I think I sit next to Billy Payne, if I'm not mistaken. But, yeah, obviously I'm going to see Gary. I think it's going to be an unbelievable day for him on Thursday morning. I think that's a really amazing honor. And for us as a South African, it's very proud to see him being able to start.

Q. South Africans, obviously the rich history, the great players, Gary Player obviously being the predominant one, as you walk around the grounds, one of the guys that obviously you talked to over the years, maybe even idolized isn't here. Is it hard not to see Ernie here?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yes. You know, Gary Player was way before my time. He put South African golf on the map and he's achieved so many things, but I never saw him hit a golf shot in his prime. So Ernie Els and Retief and Nick Price, those are the guys I used to watch growing up. And I watched Ernie obviously from way back when I could remember, playing in the Masters. He came close a few times, and I know how much this tournament means to him. It just feels weird. Because I play a lot of practice rounds with him in events like this and I learn so much off him. You know, it's sad not to see him here.

Q. Obviously he's playing well, the putter obviously he's had some issues, but can you see him winning another major in his lifetime?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I think he can. I spend a lot of time with him, and I don't think you guys actually realize how much time he puts into his golf. A lot more than anyone can actually possibly think. He's very dedicated. He's showed signs now, he's played three great weeks in a row. If he just holds a few more putts, he's definitely going to win.

Q. What is it about South Africans? I'm waiting to meet a guy I don't like. You have a nice demeanor, you're gentlemanly and nice to be around. What does that say about your country?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I can be nasty if you want. (Laughter.)

Q. Four bogeys maybe on Sunday?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I don't know. You know - I don't know.

Q. Well, keep it up.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: It just seems like that. Thank you. (Smiling).

Q. When you played with your dad and your brother, did you show them the chip and did you show them the spot on 3 where you hit wedge from? Was it that kind of day, or were you just playing a round of golf?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Yeah, I showed them on 1. I took my brother over there and showed him where the shot was from. It was different on Sunday. On Sunday the course was worn out a little bit and came here two weeks ago, the grass was quite long. So you could flop it on to the green back then. But I showed them, and I just showed them what can happen to their shot. It obviously worked out perfectly, but there was a lot of things that can go wrong there. You know, just showed them around. You see things on TV, but it's so different in real life. Took them to a few spots where I think they couldn't 2 putt from, and they didn't. (Laughter.)

Q. And who is with you this week? I know your in laws were with you last year. Who came with you this year?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: I've got my mom, dad, brother, and sister, and my wife.

Q. Any friends?

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: No. We've got no friends here.

MODERATOR: Charl, thank you so very, very much and we wish you only the best this week. Hope to see you back.

CHARL SCHWARTZEL: Thank you very much.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.