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Like Paul Lawrie winning the 1999 Open Championship at Carnoustie there are parallels in the success of South African Retief Goosen in taking the US Open. Both were largely unfancied to win before the event began and both won after a play-off. In both tournaments nobody really got away from the field though Jean van de Velde almost did at Carnoustie. At Carnoustie nobody could master the atrocious weather but at Southern Hills, Tulsa last weekend nobody could defeat the course.
It was said that the course had been toughened to counter the ‘Tiger’ effect. It seems to me to seek to make it difficult for Tiger Woods must make it almost impossible for the mere mortals in the field but there was a feeling that Woods 15 stroke demolition of the field in the same event last year should not be repeated. Anyway it seemed to work as Woods ended in tied 12th seven shots behind the 2 play-off contenders.
Goosen saw off Mark Brooks who already had a Major to his name after winning the 1996 US PGA. Goosen would have had a one shot victory on Sunday and denied Brooks a play-off but for an inexplicable miss of a tiddler of a putt.
Goosen is largely a self-taught player with a swing mostly natural but honed by reading the golfing books of the great and good. His swing is excellent and straight but after seeing his performance this last weekend few will doubt the strength of his short game. His many recoveries after failing to reach the green in regulation are what eventually won him this title. Goosen qualified for the US Open on the strength of some good performances in Europe but his future may lie increasingly on the other side of the Atlantic. His game may be more suited to the courses over there and his US Open win will win him many exemptions for years to come.
Goosen was spurred on by good luck messages from fellow countryman Ernie Els and also from Nick Faldo. A lesson here for Mark James in not throwing away one of Faldo’s good luck notes. After his success there was also a telephone call from the South African President Thabo Mbeki thus showing the world loves a winner.
Goosen can probably put away all the books of Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus and perhaps write his own. Retief Goosen is the man who broke the Woods run but the great man will be back. Goosen knows this as much as anyone. So does Paul Lawrie.