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Goosen Slams Open Door Shut

South African makes clutch putts down the stretch to win his second title in four years and deny Mickelson a shot at the Grand Slam.

June 21, 2004|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Retief Goosen won the 104th U.S. Open Championship on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.

More accurately, you could say he survived it.

Goosen's performance did not raise goose bumps.

It wasn't masterful or the Masters.

Yet, on a day when most of the field went bogey-up, including two-time champion Ernie Els (who shot 80) and fan favorite Phil Mickelson (he bowed out with a double bogey on No. 17), Goosen braved one coarse course to claim his second U.S. Open title.

Goosen shot a one-over-par 71 to finish four-under 276, two shots ahead of runner-up Mickelson, the Masters champion who also shot 71.

Goosen and Mickelson were the only players in the field who finished under par.

Jeff Maggert took third at one-over 281. Mike Weir and Shigeki Maruyama were next at 284.

Like the recent Belmont Stakes not far down a Long Island road, this U.S. Open fell short of the anticipated finish.

Mickelson, like Smarty Jones, proved to be the can't-lose horse who, in the end, lost.

The Belmont defeat cost Smarty Jones the Triple Crown.

Mickelson's defeat cost him a chance at winning golf's elusive Grand Slam.

"It's just as disappointing as it was thrilling to win a Masters," Mickelson said afterward.

Instead of Mickelson walking up the 18th fairway to an ear-splitting coronation, it was the 35-year-old Goosen, an introspective South African, who made the hike up No. 18 to respectful applause.

After clinching the victory, Goosen, a man not given to overt expression, fashioned what appeared to be a smile.

Winning to him is always like grinding sausage -- tough work.

"You know it was actually quite painful once you're out there and playing," Goosen said of the experience.

Goosen also understands he wasn't the winner America wanted.

"There were people out there supporting me as well today," Goosen said, "but obviously everybody was behind Phil."

Mickelson thought he had this tournament won.

He trailed Goosen by three shots on the back nine before staging a raucous rally.

Mickelson seized a brief, one-shot lead after he made birdie on the par-five 16th hole.

That put Mickelson at four under to Goosen's three.

Goosen, though, proved to be resilient.

Playing in the final group, he watched Mickelson make birdie ahead of him at No. 16.

Goosen, meanwhile, was contemplating a shot out of the rough.

Knowing a par would leave him one shot behind, Goosen punched a layup shot to the fairway, lifted his third shot to within 15 feet of the cut and made a clutch birdie putt to pull even.

Mickelson met his fate at the par-three 17th, launching his tee shot into a sand trap.

Normally a brilliant bunker player, Mickelson this time punched out to within six feet of the cup.

"I thought I hit a pretty good shot," Mickelson said. "It just kicked a little too hard and left me a downhill putt, which was tough."

In fact, he three-putted from there, took a gut-punch double bogey, and dropped two shots behind Goosen.

Goosen also found the sand on 17, but he saved par, then made another par on 18 to secure the victory.

At the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills, Goosen missed a two-foot putt on the 72nd hole to force an 18-hole playoff the next day against Mark Brooks, which Goosen won.

Sunday, though, he left nothing to chance on he final hole.

Goosen appeared on the brink of collapse several times, but fought his way out with his short game.

He drove into hay on the par-five fifth, knocked his second shot wayward but still scrambled to save par.

On the par-four 13th, he made a great chip from the rough and made the putt for par. On the 14th, he hit a poor sand shot, then made a long putt for bogey.

On the 15th, Goosen drove into the rough, hit his second shot into the bunker, but made up-and-down to save par again.

Goosen needed only 24 putts on the day. He one-putted 11 times, including five of the last six holes.

He and Mickelson appeared to be the only golfers able to make sense of Shinnecock.

High winds and dry conditions turned the course into a test of survival, not golf.

Sunday's final round average was 78.72 -- the highest final round average at a U.S. Open in 32 years -- and 28 players in the field did not break 80.

Nineteen players shot under par in Thursday's opening round.

No one shot under par Sunday.

It was a dismal outing for Els, who started Sunday at three under and only two shots behind Goosen.

Els' double bogey on the opening hole led to a front-nine 41 he'd rather forget. Els went from three under at the start to three over at the turn. He then made a double bogey on the 10th.

The final round proved to be one of the most confounding set-ups in tournament history -- and many of the world's top players were not happy campers.

Jerry Kelly, who shot 11-over 81 on Sunday and 17 over for the tournament, ripped the USGA.

"Their organization is not respecting the game," he said. "They're not respecting this golf course."

Tom Kite, who shot 84 on Sunday, said the course was very close to being over the top.

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