>> click here for more articles

Goosen in tune with the Beautiful South

Retief Goosen
Two weeks after he came from behind in sensational fashion in the closing stages to win the US Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Retief Goosen showed he was equally at home winning from the front when he strode to victory in the Smurfit European Open at The K Club.

The 35 year old South African carded a final round 68 on the newly named Smurfit Course, formerly the South Course, for a 13 under par total of 275 and a five shot winning margin over a trio of players, Australians Richard Green and Peter O’Malley and England’s Lee Westwood. The €550,004 (£366,660) first prize moved Goosen back to the top of the Volvo Order of Merit and in the process he wrote another chapter for himself in golf’s history books.

For the South African became the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win on his first outing after a Major Championship success. Then the American won the WGC –NEC Invitational after claiming the US PGA Championship at Pebble Beach and ever since Goosen moved into the lead in Ireland at the end of the second round, he assumed the mantle of the man to beat.

Retief Goosen
In the end no-one could achieve that and his calm and flawless final round 68, which featured birdies at the third, fifth, tenth and 18th, showed all the hallmarks of a player truly at the top of his game.

“It is great to finally win this event,” said Goosen. “The Smurfit European Open is a great event and it is nice to come out on top at last. I played much better today (than in his third round 72) and I felt a bit more comfortable out there. Things also turned my way which was nice.

“Being a new course, nobody was going to have an advantage apart from maybe a couple of the Irish guys who had played around here a couple of times. But I liked the way the course was set up, it was in good condition, and I knew if I played well, I had a good chance of winning.”

At the beginning of the final round, and at only two shots adrift, most people believed that Westwood, winner of the event in 1999 and 2000 would be the main challenger to the South African as he strived for a hat-trick of Smurfit titles.

Lee Westwood at the 2004 Smurfit European Open
However an indifferent start to his final round, which featured a bogey five at the fourth and a double bogey six at the fifth where he found sand and three putted effectively put paid to his chances of victory.

But the Englishman showed his renowned battling qualities from then on in, notching four birdies in six holes from the seventh to renew his challenge. But although he battled hard on the closing stretch, the birdie putts steadfastly refused to drop and he had to settle for a 71 and an eight under par total of 280.

“I just don’t know what happened on the first five holes,” he admitted. “I couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm and didn’t feel particularly good on the greens either. I could have run him (Goosen) close but nobody put any pressure on him.

“However I am hitting the ball as well as perhaps I ever have, into the wind I am able to knock it down and can hold it into the wind which is when I know I am playing well. So I am fairly confident for next week and the week after with my long game, I just need to go and spend some time on the putting green and find a little secret.”

Richard Green at the 2004 Open de France
Joining Westwood in a share of second place on 280 were the Australian duo of Green and O’Malley, Green carding one of the best rounds of the day with a 66 while O’Malley closed with a 70.

While the duo were naturally disappointed at not being able to claim the title, both had the major consolation of producing performances which guaranteed them places in the 133rd Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon in two weeks time.

Green, along with France’s Jean-Francois Remesy took the two places available from the mini order of merit which ran from the Deutsche Bank – SAP Open TPC of Europe to the Smurfit European Open, while O’Malley took the one place available from the event itself given to the leading player not otherwise exempt.

“That was a very good recovery for me after carding a 78 on Friday,” said Green. “But I am in terrific form at the moment and I have been making good progress since last August. My game is getting to where it needs to be and I am starting to reap the rewards, I’ve been banging on the door for some time now and hopefully the hinges are hanging off!”

Peter O'Malley
O’Malley’s finish continued a superb recent run of form and indeed in his last five tournaments the Australian has finished in a share of 18th, 12th, tenth, sixth and now second. “It has been a fairly good week and I am getting better and better which is good for what is coming up,” said O’Malley. “I think this week was the best I have played all year.”

Finally, although he failed to break par on the first three days, England’s Justin Rose saved the best for last in some considerable style, carding a new course record 65 in the final round for a share of 14th place on two under par 286, a round which was all the more remarkable considering he began it with a double bogey six and also bogeyed the 14th, but recovered in sensational fashion with ten birdies elsewhere.

Courtesy of http://www.europeantour.com/  

>> click here for more articles