Goosen Edges Big Easy in South Africa

By Sports NetworkDecember 18, 2005, 5:00 pm
European TourDurban, South Africa -- Retief Goosen matched Ernie Els' birdie on the 72nd hole Sunday to hold off his countryman and win the South African Airways Open.
 
Goosen, who bogeyed the opening hole in the final round, closed with a 3-under 70 at the par-73 Fancourt Golf Club to end the tournament at 10-under-par 282 and win this crown for the second time.
 
Els, despite an opening-round 3-over 76, took second place at 9-under-par 283 after closing with a 5-under 68.
 
'Ernie played very well and I got away with it at the end there,' said Goosen, who claimed his 13th European Tour win. 'It's great to win this trophy again. The last time was ten years ago so it's great to get my hands on it again.'
 
Gregory Bourdy carded a 3-under 70 to move into a tie for third at 2-under-par 290. He, along with Darren Fichardt (74), were the final two players in red figures. Mattias Eliasson, Gregory Havret and Keith Horne shared fifth place at even-par 292.
 
Goosen, who also won this title in 1995, knocked his approach shot over the green at the first. He was unable to save par and slipped to minus-6, two clear of Els.
 
Els, last week's winner at the dunhill championship, picked up a stroke on Goosen as he drained a 10-foot birdie try on the third. Both players birdied the fourth, Goosen from 12 feet out and Els from 2 feet. Els then birdied the eighth to tie Goosen in the lead at minus-7.
 
Goosen, the fourth-ranked player in the world, quickly regained the lead with a 5-foot birdie putt on the ninth. Els looked to be out of it at the 12th, as his second shot bounced off the green and into a hazard.
 
Els, who is No. 5 in the world, could do no better than double bogey to fall three back. However, he bounced back with a birdie on 14. Els made it two in a row with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 15th to move within one of Goosen.
 
The 1994 and 1997 U.S. Open champion joined Goosen in the lead at minus-8as he converted his third straight birdie, this one from 4 feet out on the 16th.
 
Goosen reclaimed the lead at No. 17 with a dramatic chip-in birdie from over the green.
 
'It was one of those chips, that if I play it well, I can get it within 8 feet and make par that way, and instead it went in,' said Goosen.
 
With the tournament on the line, both players showed their mettle. Goosen putted to 5 feet from the back chipping area, and sank that birdie putt. Els missed his eagle putt from 7 feet out, but tapped in for birdie to end one stroke back.
 
'I just couldn't make a putt today to save my life,' said Goosen. 'On a golf course like this, its so tough that anything can happen.'
 
Francesco Molinari posted a 2-over 75 to finish alone in eighth place at 1-over-par 293. Last year's winner Tim Clark struggled to a 76 in the final round to finish at plus-2. He was joined there by Ross Fisher, who faltered to a 5-over 78 on Sunday.
 
South African Patrick O'Brien posted a disastrous 14-over 87 on Saturday. He came back strong on Sunday closing with a course-record, 6-under 67. However, it was only good enough to get him into a share of 58th place.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - South African Airways Open
  • Full Coverage - South African Airways Open
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    Watch: Na plays backwards shot and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

    Getty Images

    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.