Goosen: superb when it counts

9 November 2004

Retief Goosen’s nickname is The Goose. Maybe it should be The Golden Goose. In the season-ending US PGA Tour Championship, featuring an elite 31-man field, Goosen proved once more that he’s the poster boy for the saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

The South African star brings to mind images of Clint Eastwood in his Spaghetti Western days: the quiet manner and the slit eyes, as if he were always looking into the sun. But even the Man With No Name would find it difficult to overcome The Goose in a duel.

Outshooting the Tiger
No one, it seems, relishes the toughest challenges that golf poses more than Goosen. His two US Open titles are evidence of that.

Now he’s provided additional ammunition for that argument, outduelling Tiger Woods in the final round of the Tour Championship to lift the title on a testing East Lake layout.

To put this feat into perspective, it is only the third time out of 33 that Woods has failed to win after having at least a share of the third round lead.

“Goose is one steady player . You don’t win two US Opens by being very erratic. You have to be steady, and he’s done that”, Woods commented aterwards.

Goosen started four shots behind Woods, but fired the only bogey-free final round as he posted a six-under-par 64 to take victory by four shots. His round matched the lowest final round in any of the four Tour Championships that East Lake had previously hosted.

Hanging around under the radar
According to the South African, he “likes to hang around under the radar”. That he manages to do that is possibly a bigger feat than any other that he has achieved yet. One has to ask, how is it that Goosen’s name seldom comes up as a likely challenger in the big events, even after two major victories?

This is a man who has proved he is as tough as teak; remember that he won 10 matches in succession in the Dunhill Cup. When the chips are down, one man you wouldn’t want to face is Retief Goosen.

After his win, it was pointed out to Goosen that he had won five times on the US PGA Tour since he started playing it regularly, about four or five years ago. The question was then posed whether he thought that was about the right number of wins, or should he have had more by now.

‘I know which ones to pick’
His answer was interesting: “I don’t know. I’ve won good ones, and I probably had my chances to win a couple more, and I probably think I should win a bit more. But I’m getting more and more comfortable out there now, getting to know the golf courses, as well, that we play.

“I know which ones to pick and know the ones I like. I can work my schedule out that way so I’ll give myself more chances.”

That’s not good news for Goosen’s rivals.

His win in Tour Championship lifted him one place in the world rankings to a career-high fourth place. Tiger Woods’ second-place finish was enough to lift him to number two in the world, with Ernie Els moving down to number three, fractionally behind the American.

Goosen’s victory also boosted his bank balance by US$1 080 000 (R6.74-million) – a huge prize that is testament to the status of the Tour Championship.

It was The Goose’s second win on the US PGA Tour of 2004. He previously won the US Open, which made him, along with Tiger Woods, one of only two players to win a US PGA Tour title for four years running. In Europe he also laid claim to the European Open title.

Great year in the US and Europe
Despite campaigning extensively on both the US PGA and European Tours, Goosen recorded very high finishes on both money lists. In the US he finished in sixth spot, while in Europe he ended as runner-up to Ernie Els.

Two other South Africans contested the Tour Championship. Ernie Els and Rory Sabbatini both finished nine shots off the pace on two-under-par 278, good enough for a share of tenth place.

In the top 100 of the latest world rankings, it is Ernie Els in third, Retief Goosen in fourth, Rory Sabbatini in thirty-first, Trevor Immelman in fiftieth, and Tim Clark in sixty-ninth place. South African-born Nick Price (Durban) occupies forty-fourth place, and Justin Rose (Johannesburg) is ranked sixty-seventh.

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