Reuters - Sun, 14 Mar 08:05:00 2010
Charl Schwartzel was Ernie Els' house guest last week but it will be strictly business on Sunday as the South African pair go head-to-head in the last round of the WGC-CA Championship at Doral.
Els, who is 15 years older than Schwartzel and even played in a tournament with his father, is tied on 12-under with the 25-year-old while Ireland's Padraig Harrington is a shot behind.
"I think it's great," Els said. "I think it's a wonderful, cool story. It's great for South African golf, obviously and world golf; a new young star, 25-year-old really making his mark.
"He's won twice (on the European Tour) already this year. He's a force to be reckoned with.
"On Sunday we will shake hands and play 18 holes as hard as we can. He's going to try and win, I'm going to try and win. I think it's very cool."
The South African duo have a long-standing mentor-student relationship, with Schwartzel (pictured), as a young golfer, travelling with a team that is supported by Els' foundation which assists his compatriots from modest backgrounds into the game.
"When we started the foundation, this is what we were after. Although Charl was (only) an affiliated member, he travelled with the team and this is what we all had in mind."
Last week while Els, who has not won on tour for two years, was struggling to 67th in the Honda Classic at Palm Beach Gardens, Schwartzel stayed at his home in Jupiter, Florida and the pair practiced together.
"I fed him well. I gave him good wine, so he owes me, big time. We met his fiance and it was great having him there," Els said. "I've known him a long time and he almost feels like a little brother to me in some ways.
"And now here we are in the final round. I think if we had talked last week about it ending up this way, I don't think we would have imagined it, even in our wildest dreams."
Schwartzel is probably the one pinching himself the most, however, having studied Els' play as a child and heard stories from his father, who played with Els, winning a 'better ball' competition in their homeland the late 1980s.
"I used to watch a lot of his golf tapes that he made of his swing. He knew my Dad and I got introduced to him a couple of times as a kid. He was like my big hero," said Schwartzel.
Whatever the outcome on the Blue Monster course on Sunday, the pair will be back under the same roof next week.
"He's staying with me again next week, (though) ... it's going to depend on how it goes down on Sunday too," said Els.
"He might be sleeping in the garden, you never know".