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By Kevin Currie, Golf Editor - Archive - Email
Schwartzel's year as Masters champion
Charl Schwartzel has had an outstanding year as Masters champion.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Charl Schwartzel is in Texas this weekend for his final tune up before his title defense at The Masters.

He's had an outstanding year as Masters champion.

Schwartzel birdied the final four holes at Augusta National last year to claim the green jacket. He was the first champion to ever accomplish that feat.

"I look at it as just a good finish at the right time," a humble Schwartzel explained on Wednesday in his interview session at the Houston Open

The South African's decision to remain in the field for the Malaysian Open the following week seemed stunning at the time, but in retrospect, it was probably his best move.

Instead of hitting the interview circuit, Schwartzel went right back to what he had been doing since joining the European Tour in 2003 - playing golf.

"I think a lot of people try and change things after winning a big tournament like that," Schwartzel said. "My biggest goal was to remain the same, to do everything I did before, because that's what made me win."

Seven days after becoming the third South African to win the Masters, Schwartzel shared 11th place in Malaysia. That was the first of 22 events he has played since becoming a major champion.

He hasn't overloaded himself with events, which has helped his results as he missed just three cuts, while posting nine top-10 finishes.

Schwartzel is just one of 16 players to make the Masters their first, and only, major championship victory.

"I'm very excited. It's going to be a big week, and I'm going to try and keep it as normal as possible," Schwartzel said.

Of those 16, Schwartzel is one of four still active on the PGA Tour with a chance to remove his name from that list. Mike Weir, Zach Johnson and Trevor Immelman are the other three active champions.

You could include Fred Couples, but other than playing the Masters, Couples rarely plays any regular tour events because he is playing so well on the Champions Tour.

If you look at his overall record, choosing Schwartzel to win the Masters last year would have won you a lot of money. But, looking at his record in the four majors, you could have seen this coming.

Schwartzel missed the cut in six of his first 11 starts in the major championships. He had a pair of middle-of-the-pack finishes at the '09 PGA Championship and the 2010 Masters.

Since that Masters, Schwartzel has the best streak in major championship golf. Beginning with his tie for 16th at the 2010 U.S. Open, the 27-year-old has posted seven consecutive top-20 finishes.

That is the longest such streak on the PGA Tour. Steve Stricker is second-best with five top-20s in a row

Schwartzel is far from the flashiest of players, but that suits his personality well. Quiet and unassuming are perfect adjectives for the man who will defend his title at Augusta National next week.

YOUTH CONTINUES TO DOMINATE THE LPGA TOUR

Yani Tseng is clearly dominating the LPGA Tour this year with three wins in the first five events after winning seven times last season.

Now 23, Tseng is among a large group of youngsters leading the tour.

The other two winners this year were 18 and 34, meaning the average winner this season has been 24.2 years old. With the obviously smaller sample size, that is a full two years younger than the average winner last year.

In 2010, there were as many teenage winners - one - as there were 40- somethings winning on the LPGA. Just six events last year were won by players 30 or older, while there were seven winners, excluding Tseng, 25 or younger.

With the season's first major championship arriving with the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship, the oldest of the four major winners, 27-year-old Stacy Lewis, is defending her title.

Tseng has won three of the last five majors in all, and the last player not in her 20s to win an LPGA Tour major was Cristie Kerr. She was 32 when was won the 2010 LPGA Championship in dominating fashion.

With Tseng leading the way, youth is pushing the LPGA Tour to new heights.

MINI-TIDBITS

* Tseng has entered Tiger Woods territory with her lead atop the women's world rankings. She stands 9.26 average points ahead of No. 2 Na Yeon Choi, whose average point total is 9.02. Choi would have to win at least nine events to catch Tseng atop the rankings.

* Last week, Chris Riley carded just his third top-10 finish on either the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour since his win in 2007 on the Nationwide Tour. That's a pretty big fall for a guy who played on the 2004 U.S. Ryder Cup team.


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