The 26-year-old South African has arrived in the south-east of England this week looking to add the Claret Jug to the Green Jacket he picked up for winning the Masters at Augusta in April.
Schwartzel has not played competitively since the US Open at Congressional three weeks ago after altering his schedule and dropping the Barclays Scottish Open from his diary.
Back in May, the Springbok had enthusiastically declared his intention to make the trek to the Highlands as a links warm-up for Sandwich but, showing all the forecasting nous of Ian MacCaskill, the five-time European Tour winner had a change of mind. Given the fearsome conditions that devastated the Scottish showpiece, it was not a bad call.
“I decided not to play the Scottish Open because I guessed the weather was going to be bad,” said Schwartzel, the third South African, after Gary Player and Trevor Immelman to win the Masters title.
“That was my prediction and I wasn’t far off. Moving the Scottish Open further north, I figured the weather couldn’t get any better. I’ve heard it too many times in my life, especially in Ireland, where we would arrive at a tournament and the locals would say ‘you wouldn’t believe how good the weather was last week.’ I figured it was going to be pretty much the same last week.”
Instead of squelching about on the Moray Firth, Schwartzel remained in South Africa to prepare for a return to this area of England that holds a special place in his golfing heart.
As a successful amateur, he won the Brabazon Trophy -- the English Open Strokeplay -- at neighbouring Royal Cinque Ports in 2002. However, his recollections of his debut appearance in the Open the following season at St George’s are slightly mixed and a tad hazy.
After three holes of his opening round, he was atop the leaderboard but, instead of spurring him on, Schwartzel got a dose of the jitters, posted a 78 and eventually missed the cut following a 77 in round two.
He added: “It’s a good feeling to be back and obviously I have good memories of playing next door. But I think I led after three holes [of the Open] and got such a fright when I saw my name on the leaderboard and that is about all I can actually remember. Eight years later, I think I’m a bit more mature and understand the game a bit better.”
Despite his Masters triumph, sealed with a blitz of four closing birdies, and a top-10 finish in the US Open, Schwartzel is more than happy to assume the role of underdog this week.
“I’ve always liked playing as the underdog and then surprise people,” he said. “I’m here to give it my best and see if I can win this tournament. Whether my odds are 200/1 or 12/1, it doesn’t make any difference to me.”