Schwartzel aiming to join an elite company

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Charl Schwartzel will be looking to make it a hat-trick of victories when he launches the defence of his title at the Joburg Open today.

Johannesburg-born Schwartzel won the title at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington by six shots in 2010.

He followed it up last year by firing four rounds in the 60s, including a second-round 61, to finish four strokes clear of Garth Mulroy.

Should Schwartzel make it a hat-trick he would become one of six players, alongside Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.

For the 27-year-old, familiarity will be an advantage.“It is a golf course I’ve played many times as an amateur and junior and I grew up not too far away from Royal Johannesburg so it is always nice to play the course.

“I’ve always got a good feel when I go back there and always enjoy playing the Joburg Open.

“I get to play a tournament and stay at home in my own bed, which is very cool. It is great for South Africa to have three European Tour events at the start of the year, too.”

Yorkshire’s Danny Willett, Richard Finch, Danny Denison, John Parry and Neil Cheetham are all in action. Sheffield’s Willett, seventh last week, has finished in the top four twice in the last three years at the Joburg Open.