Charl Schwartzel started Saturday with a comfortable lead. He finished it with nerves that were a bit more frayed, but with $4 million to help deal with any anxiety.
The South African made a double bogey on No. 12 and limped home with bogeys on Nos. 14 and 18, but still managed a one-stroke victory in the LIV Golf Invitational Series inaugural event at London’s Centurion Club.
Schwartzel, the 2011 Masters champ, finished the tournament at 7 under and held off his Stinger teammates Hennie du Plessis (6 under) and Branden Grace (5 under) to earn the first-place purse of $4 million.
“Honestly, I’m relieved,” said Schwartzel, who hadn’t won an event on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour since 2016. “I made a bad mistake on 12 which put me on the back foot and I needed to just stick on and try and get this thing in the house, you know? I had it in my hands and made it a bit more difficult than it should have been.
“But I’m just proud and it’s a great feeling.”
As for du Plessis, a runner-up finish was not expected from the 133rd player in the Official World Golf Ranking. But Schwartzel spoke highly of his countryman and expects big things from the two-time Sunshine Tour winner.
“He’s got a bright future,” Schwartzel said of du Plessis. “He’s playing real good and I’m proud of him. Proud of my teammates, you know, this is a historical moment. The first LIV tournament and man, this is awesome.”
As for other big names in the field, Dustin Johnson finished 8th at 1 under for the 54-hole event while Talor Gooch shot a 69 on Saturday to finish even. Ian Poulter was 5 over and Sergio Garcia was 6 over.
In the end, though, it was Schwartzel’s day. After a lengthy drought, the 126th-ranked player in the world was happy to be part of the experience.
“What they’ve done was way beyond our expectations — the entertainment, the way they treat everybody and you know the amount of money they put up for us, it’s out of this world,” he said.