23 March 2009
In November 2008, Retief Goosen won the Johor Open on the Asian Tour. Then, in January, he captured the Africa Open. Clearly, he was returning to the form that had made him a perennial world top-10-ranked golfer. On Sunday he confirmed his revival with victory in the US PGA Tour’s Transitions Championship in Tampa Bay.
It was his first win on the PGA Tour since The International in 2005, and the name of the event could hardly have been more appropriate as Goosen won for the third time in five months.
At a media conference after his victory, Goosen explained his turn-around: “You know, beginning of last year, I was looking at myself in the mirror thinking, I look a bit out of shape. I just thought, you know, might as well try and turn everything around.
‘I started working very hard’
“I started working very hard in the gym. I was in the gym this morning for one-hour working out. So I might as well, instead of getting totally out of shape and struggling, I thought I might as well be fit and struggling. So I’d rather feel better about myself.
“But I worked hard this December. I pretty much hit balls almost every day this December. I didn’t have much of a holiday. Played a few events in South Africa, where I won the African Open. My whole game started getting a little bit better. It’s just a matter of getting a bit more consistency going. This week, I played consistent.”
Goosen’s performance in the final round with his putter made many people think of his showing at Shinnecock Hills where he won his second US Open in 2005 on extremely fast and testing greens.
He commented: “When the greens get so crusty and fast, you know, the ball for some reason, I just tend to be able to control my stroke better on these quicker putts than on putts where I feel like I have to hit it.
“When I feel like I can just make a very smooth stroke and the ball will get to the hole, I seem to make a better stroke. I think if I putted on greens like this all year long, I think I’ll enjoy it.”
Considering the problems such greens cause for the average PGA Tour golfer, that’s quite some statement by the icy cool South African.
Goosen was second on the the leaderboard after three rounds on seven-under-par 206 after rounds of 69, 68, and 69, with Tom Lehman just ahead of him on eight-under.
Lehman struggled with his putting, while Goosen’s touch was assured, but it was Steve Stricker, who began the final round three shots behind the South African who moved into the lead.
An eagle for the lead
Goosen, however, responded with an eagle on the eleventh hole to take the lead. He never surrendered it, but it required nerves of steel for him to hold on to it at the eighteenth.
Faced with a 25-foot putt on the tricky greens, and two opportunities to seal victory, He finished five feet from the hole with his first putt and then sank a tricky five-footer to take the win.
At the media conference afterwards, Goosen was asked about his final putt and what he saw before hitting it. “Not much,” replied the South African.
“That’s the thing. You would always like to have a feeling of a putt maybe moving in a certain way, but I just couldn’t see anything. I hit it dead straight, and it went in left half. It was great to see that putt go in. The greens got scary.
‘It was really tough’
“Down those last few holes, they were definitely getting like Shinnecock was. You just cannot hit them soft enough, that place. It was really tough.”
Goosen’s final round of 70 left him on eight-under-par 276. Brett Quigley and Charles Howell III shared second, a shot off the pace, after rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.
Stricker fell back to a share of fourth, alongside Matthew Goggin and Charlie Wi on 278. Overnight leader Lehman slumped to a 75 and finished four shots behind Goosen on 280.
South Africa’s US Masters champion Trevor Immelman finished on 283 after a disappointing final round of 75. Rory Sabbatini ended on 291, and Tim Clark missed the cut with a two-round total of 151.
TRANSITIONS CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERBOARD
South African scores
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