NORTH PLAINS, Ore. — Charl Schwartzel took one look at the putt that was headed somewhere in the direction of Mount Hood before stopping about halfway to the hole on the 13th green at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club and could not resist.
"Other than your line and speed it was a very good putt," he said.
The rest of the group in Wednesday's pro-am, including the two amateurs and his partner and longtime friend Louis Oosthuizen, laughed.
After all, there's been a lot of that happening in the Schwartzel household in Jupiter, Florida, since he won the inaugural LIV Golf Series event in London three weeks ago and pocketed checks worth $4.75 million, $4 million for the individual title and $750,000 for being part of the winning team. That was more than he had made in any one year in two decades on the PGA Tour, including 2011 when he won the Masters.
"That's the whole thing," Schwartzel said, being honest about why LIV Golf has attracted more PGA Tour players than expected, "it's beyond everybody's imagination. You can't lie (and say) it's not about the money. There's a lot of money out there and it's more than any guy has ever played for."
Refreshing to see someone peeling back the layers and getting to the real truth of why anyone would face criticism to join the series that is being financed by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.
First LIV golfer to realize money boom
Schwartzel, 37, became the first poster child for LIV's financial boom. The South African, who has lived in Palm Beach County for 12 years, has won the Masters and the 2016 Valspar Championship, and never won $3 million in PGA Tour prize money in a year.
He certainly has lived a comfortable life earning $21 million on the tour and having at one time owned a home at the Old Palm Club in Palm Beach Gardens but now renting in the Bear's Club. But in three days in London, he made about one-quarter of what he did in 20 years.
Still, Schwartzel said the money never crossed his mind as he was attempting to hold off fellow South African Hennie du Plessis in London, thinking only about winning.
"Losing would have hurt much more than the money," he said.
Schwartzel is aware of the backlash the players are receiving. He is aware of what has happened in Saudi Arabia. But his comfort zone and escape is golf.
"I don't know enough about all this stuff and I've been like that my whole life," he said. "I love playing golf. I know there is so much stuff going on. If you get caught in all of it, your golf goes down.
"So you just try and play a game, focus on the golf."
Schwartzel has been focusing on golf since he started dominating the amateur ranks in South Africa, along with his friend Oosthuizen, whom he has known for 37 years. And as Schwartzel became more successful on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa and European Tour, he was told by fellow South African and Hall of Famer Ernie Els that if he wanted to play more in America, he had a place to stay in Jupiter with Els.
In 2010, Schwartzel got into the WGC event at Doral and asked Ernie if the offer still stood. He said yes and Schwartzel, and his wife, Rosalind, moved in with Ernie and Liezl.
That visit lasted for nearly two years before Schwartzel decided, "can't stay with a guy forever.
"So we rented a place, then bought a place. It wasn't planned. It just happened."
Oosthuizen soon followed his friend and they became neighbors in Old Palm. Oosthuizen recently moved to Ocala.
"It is different having a barbecue and not inviting him over," Oosthuizen said.
Charl and Rosalind now have two children and are hosting Rosalind's parents, Brian and Colleen Jacobs, who arrived from South Africa before the pandemic. Brian, a longtime professional golfer in South Africa, also is Charl's manager.
Rosalind and the children were in London for Charl's LIV victory, and Brian and Collen are at this week's tournament in Oregon. Brian watched Charl's win at London by one stroke over du Plessis and said he approved of his strategy on the 54th hole. Schwartzel played it safe, knowing a bogey would win the tournament.
"It was a very clever play," Brian said. "The idea was you don't have to be a hero, you just have to win."
Joining LIV, resigning from PGA Tour not easy decision for Charl Schwartzel
LIV came along at the right time for Schwartzel, but the decision to resign his PGA Tour membership was not easy. Politics aside, Schwartzel had some vetting to do.
"The more you met with the guys, and see it wasn't a scam and they are really serious about it and they got long-term visions, I started being much more interested," Schwartzel said. "Especially at my age."
You could say Schwartzel already hit the lottery. But now he's aiming for the Powerball. He believes his best golf is ahead after suffering a wrist injury midway through 2019 that forced him to take off about 10 months.
Since then, he's made 54 starts on the PGA Tour with just seven top 10 finishes. But he said last year was the first time in a long time he was injury-free. The results are now starting to show.
"I've got more speed now I ever had in my whole life. I got more experience," he said. "I just feel I've got a lot of stuff in my favor I didn't have even when I was playing well. All those things added up could potentially give me better golf than I ever played."
And a lot more money.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: LIV Golf: Charl Schwartzel earns more in 3 days than any PGA Tour year