Retief Goosen British Open Press Conference Transcript
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I don't think the course has changed at all. It's pretty much the way it was. They've lengthened a couple of par 3s. So I think the Par 3s are quite a bit tougher than they were in the past. I think the Par 3s are going to be key holes out there this week, especially the bunkers around the Par 3s are probably the worst on the whole course. I think you can pretty much make par over the whole week.
Q. On tour during the year you're playing inland courses. When you come to a links course is it more fun to play(inaudible)?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes, I think so. Obviously the course is not as hard as it can be. With all the rain they've had, the fairways aren't running as fast as they normally can. The greens are very good. They still are a little bit slow. But I think with the rain and drizzle we've had, there is quite a bit of sand on the greens and it picks up quite a bit of sand and it slows them down a little. The greens are firm. They definitely are not soft at all, but everybody is very happy with the course. They haven't gone over the top or anything, like the (inaudible) at Carnoustie or some of the other courses, but generally it's in great shape and everybody is very happy. There's going to be a lot of players this week that think they can win or give themselves a good chance.
Q. Do you have a strategy for tomorrow or is it a question of seeing what the weather is like?
RETIEF GOOSEN: You have to see what the weather is like. At the moment there is hardly any wind so it does make it a lot easier, although it's quite cold, the ball is not going along way, so some of the holes are playing quite long. You have got to see what the wind does to see what kind of strategy you'll play with.
Q. What are your expectations over the next couple of days?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I'm looking forward to doing well for a change again. I've not been playing so well the last couple of months, but I just need to start making a few putts. Once you start making a few putts, some of the shots out there are a lot easier. You can go at more flags and still manage par. But if you're not putting so well, everything seems a little more difficult. Once I get making a few putts again, get the ball rolling, then your confidence gets up as well.
Q. Do you enjoy an event like this now or is there still too much pressure to perform?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I'm really looking forward to the rest of the week. It's a great course. I feel like I can do well around here. I think I'm sort of getting used to the pressure now. I will just treat it like a normal tournament. You still have to hit the same shots and play the same golf and see what happens.
Q. You've always had an excellent record. St. Andrews was played in October and usually in quite bad weather. Does the wind eliminate a lot of the field?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I think a lot of players would like to see a little bit more wind. It would sort of bring the better ball striking guys out and instead somebody -- if there is no wind and you're not hitting well, you can still manage to get it around. I think a better wind would really bring the best players out, so I'm looking forward to it. Obviously, I play a lot of links golf, obviously at St. Andrews and so on, so maybe a bit of that experience can help me this week.
Q. Do you feel you can go out and attack, or is it more going to be a case of sort of stay there or thereabouts until the end (inaudible)?
RETIEF GOOSEN: There are some holes you feel like you can attack. There are few holes on the course when you stand on the tee it just looks like there is nothing out there, the 1st hole and the 10th hole, especially, and the 9th, those are holes that feels like there's not much out there to try and aim at but the rest of the course is set up generously. If you lay back (inaudible) you give yourself a longer second shot, but if you hit a driver into the narrow areas or a (inaudible) you get rewarded with a shorter shot into the green. So the course is really how you feel and how your game is. If you play really well, it feels like you can just hit anything out there.
Q. How do you feel right now? Do you feel the driver may come out?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I don't think the driver will come out as much here as it was at the U.S. Open. It's not playing nearly as long, obviously, but once the wind starts blowing you're going to have no choice on some of the holes but to bring out the driver.
Q. How do you feel about leaving the courses the way they are rather than trying to lengthen them?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes, I think everybody is sort of tired of every course getting lengthened and adding 500 yards or something. I think courses should just stay the way it is. The game is here to made birdies. If it's really bad weather, they won't make birdies. I think that's what we saw at the U.S. Open. The weather wasn't good. The guys couldn't reach the fairways. At the end, this is the way it is, and when we have windy conditions, the score is going to be high. If we don't, it's going to be low. I think they should leave it the way it is. People come out to see some birdies and see some good golf, not to see guys chopping around making 9s and 10s.
STEWART McDOUGAL: Retief, thank you very much.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.
McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call
Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.
Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.
The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.
McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.
McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.