Coming into U.S. Open week, there were a ton of names being kicked around to win at Congressional. Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson were some of the more popular choices.
One name that wasn't getting a lot of play was Masters champion Charl Schwartzel. After closing with a blistering finish at Augusta National, the South African went into hiding, his game barely registering on the golf radar over the last couple of months. There was nothing about his current form that made you believe he'd compete for a U.S. Open title.
After round one, however, maybe it's time to rethink Schwartzel's chances. After posting an opening-round 3-under 68, he's only three back of Rory McIlroy. While that's all well and good, there's a bigger story here, and that's Charl's chances of starting the "Schwartzel Slam."
It's been awhile since we've been able to talk about a golfer winning the slam. The last player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year was Tiger Woods in 2002, so Schwartzel would be in rare company if he could make it happen.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves: plenty of players have posted great opening rounds only to watch things go up in flames on Friday. For now, Schwartzel's slam chances are just a side story next to McIlroy's opening-round 65.
But if Charl can somehow find a way to stay near the leaders going into the weekend, it's a safe bet the chatter about his slam chances will reach a fever pitch. One good round tomorrow and he'll definitely be in the spotlight once again.
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- Charl Schwartzel