Retief Goosen Interview - 2004 US Open
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2004 US Open | Final Round | 21 Jun 2004
Rand Jerris: It’s a pleasure to introduce the 104th United States Open champion Retief Goosen with a round of 1-over par 71, a four round total of 4-under par 276. Retief becomes the 21st player to win multiple United States Open championships.
Retief, maybe you could start us off with some comments about the emotions going through your head in this your second victory.
Retief Goosen: Yeah, it wasn’t any easier than the first time. Obviously this time I knew that I could do it, and I’ve done it before, but I scrambled a little bit on the back nine and holed a few good par putts, and with Phil in front of me, I knew he was playing well. But just like on 17 when he made a double bogey, it went my way.
I wasn’t letting my guard down, I was just trying to stay focused until we finished this tournament off. I know what happened last time; it’s not over till it’s over. I needed the tee shot on 18, that was obviously key, and I went with what I went with the whole week, driver, and I hit a pretty good drive. I was a little bit in between clubs. I can’t quite get a wedge there and a 9-iron would have been too much, so I ended up hitting a chip 9-iron, and relief to see it just on the back of the green there, and although I had a tricky putt I knew I was going to end up leaving myself an uphill putt on the second one. I just didn’t want to three-putt again. I was focusing on a two-putt this time and win this thing and we can all go home.
Q: Have you ever putted that had well in your life in a crunch situation, let alone five greens in a row on the back nine?
Retief Goosen: Yeah, I was — probably Southern Hills I was putting probably just as good, if not better. But that’s what you need to do at these tournaments. Obviously these greens were unbelievably fast and drying out and getting bumpy. To keep holing good putts was the key.
I started yesterday seeing the lines very well and reading the break of the greens very well and starting to get a good feel for the lines on the greens, and that helped me out today.
Q: You get down the stretch and it comes down to you and Phil, the guy who has obviously been the fan favorite all week and they’re roaring at everything he does. I’m just wondering, how did you cope with all that and how did you deal with that and get your mind —
Retief Goosen: I think it was probably a bit easier playing with Ernie in a way today and not with Phil. I think if I did play with him, it would have been a lot more going on around. Although there was a lot going on around us, too, but it doesn’t make it any easier out there who you’re playing with, but I was really doing my hardest to keep focusing, to stay focused and not get carried away with what’s going on in front of me and just play one shot at a time. Obviously I got off to a great start on the first hole and Ernie off to a bad start, and that sort of set the tone for his day, although he made a very good birdie on the 3rd to get back into it. Lucky for me, things went my way.
Q: Yesterday you said you were looking forward to playing with Ernie, that you were going to speak a little ^ Afrikaans during the course of the day. Did you have a chance to talk to him last night prior to the round, and secondly, during the round, did you speak a little less than you might have because he was sort of slipping away, or did you actually talk more during the course of the round?
Retief Goosen: No, I didn’t speak to him yesterday, until this morning when we arrived. I saw him in the players’ lounge, and just hi and so on, that was basically it. But on the golf course we sort of both got into our own sort of zone, and we didn’t really speak to each other besides good shot and keep it up. Ernie was supportive on the back nine. A couple of times he would say, “Knock it in, let’s go.” But in a way it was not really any ^ Afrikaans speaking out there. I think we were both so focused on what we were trying to do.
Q: Back up to your birdie on 16 and Phil is right in front of you. He’s 160 yards away or whatever it is. Are you watching him play that hole, and what’s running through your mind as you see him I guess in the bunker? How much did you see him rake those two putts by, and all of a sudden it’s a three-shot swing in a 12-minute span?
Retief Goosen: Well, I saw him make the putt on 16 from where I was, my tee shot. I missed the fairway there by a foot or so, and I was sort of deciding should I take a 5-iron and try and chase it up maybe into that right bunker, but it was just — if the club turns on me and you end up in those left bunkers you’ve got no shot, so that’s why I decided to chip a wedge out and leave myself a sand wedge in and try and make four that way.
I saw him make his putt for birdie there and I knew he went to 4-under, and I holed a very good putt there for birdie, and actually when I walked up to the 17th tee he was just putting from above the hole, which I wasn’t sure if it was for birdie or if it was for par.
But then I saw him miss the return putt, and it’s just then when I heard somebody in the crowd say, "Oh, you’re two ahead now," so then I knew he made a double.
Q: When he went ahead, how important was it for you to make that putt to get back to even, just from the standpoint of not knowing you’re going to run out of holes?
Retief Goosen: Yeah, I hit a very good third shot in there. I was surprised it came up that far short. I thought it was going to be right there by the hole. Ernie hit it out of the bunker to just inside me, and he said, “Come on, knock it in.” So I got a good read on the green there and hit a good putt. I felt like that putt was giving me a chance in the last couple of holes. I thought it was going to come down to the 18th hole. I didn’t really expect Phil to make a double at 17. It’s playing probably for him just a smooth 7-iron or maybe even an 8-iron, so I didn’t really expect him to make a double.
Q: Would you go through your birdies and bogeys today?
Retief Goosen: No. 1, I hit driver off the tee and hit a 9-iron into the middle of the green, long putt, 40 feet or something, and quite relieved to see that go in.
Next I hit a 4-iron just in the right trap, got it out to about ten feet and missed the putt.
No. 8, I hit a good 2-iron off the tee and for some reason I just can’t hit that green. I missed that green three times this week. I tried to hit a hard sand wedge, it hit the bank and came back in. That was pretty much a bogey on the card today.
No. 10, you’re so close to the green there, I hit 2-iron off the tee and hit probably 60 yards left of the flag, and you’ve got no chance of stopping it really and didn’t quite trust the putt coming down the hill. Putting into the wind I thought the wind might hold the ball a little bit and ran it by ten feet and missed the putt coming back.
11, I hit an 8-iron, and relieved to see that ball end up where it ended up. I still didn’t have an easy putt. I missed that green once this week. First round I think I missed it left and got it up-and-down. I thought I might miss it left there again today, by it just hung on the bank there.
14, I hit a good 2-iron off the tee, and I was stuck in between clubs. I wasn’t sure either to hit a soft hard wedge or a soft 9, and I decided to go with the soft 9 and came out of it slightly and it plugged in the trap. I knew it wasn’t really possible to get it close out of the bunker. I was trying to blast it out just over the rough and let it run down 20 feet past the hole, but unfortunately it caught the rough and stayed in, and from there on I knew 20 feet was pretty much as close as I could get it from there.
I was quite determined on that putt to make it. I felt like I didn’t really deserve to make double here, and that was sort of the first putt that when I made it, I was, like, we’re on your side, quite fired up.
16, I’ve explained what I’ve done on 16.
Retief Goosen: 13, I hit 2-iron off the tee and had wind coming right to left. I was trying to hit it down the right there and let the wind drift it left and blocked it into that thick rough. The ball was lying okay, but about a foot behind my ball the grass was very thick, so I knew I was going to get hooked up. I was just trying to hit a sand wedge about 70 yards just over this bunker in front of me and let it run down just short of the green, pretty much where Ernie was, and got hooked up badly and the ball just came out flying left. Luckily where I was lying there, the crowd had been walking all day or the whole week, and I had a pretty good lie. Making contact wasn’t a problem, I just had to land it perfectly in that fringe, which I did.
Q: Phil was saying that the galleries were giving him hole-by-hole, play-by-play of where you were, Retief is in the bunker, Retief is in the rough. What were your ears picking up, what they were saying to you?
Retief Goosen: I didn’t hear anything like that. A couple of times when you made a bogey, you’d hear somebody say, “Here comes Phil.” You expect it out there, and I expect that people will be rooting for him and not me, which is quite natural. If this tournament was in South Africa, they would all be rooting for me. I’m quite used to it by now, being the underdog, and it doesn’t really bother me. People are out here to enjoy it and have fun.
Q: Yesterday you had talked about the fact that everybody gets nervous out there, but with you we really never can tell anyway. I was wondering, first of all, might you have felt the most nervous today, and then after Phil kind of nosed ahead there on the back nine at 16 what your emotions were.
Retief Goosen: Well, you’re always nervous on the first tee. Today with the way the wind was playing, you had to hit driver while the other three days I hit 2-iron off the tee. Those first tee nerves are always the hardest to get over, and it was nice to get off to a great tee shot and obviously making a birdie.
I actually started feeling more relaxed around about No. 11 and 12 where I was sort of — the whole front nine I was quite on the edge. I think once you get sort of through No. 7 and you make par there, you feel quite happy.
I knew Phil was coming at me and I knew it was coming down to me and him, and that No. 12, I felt a bit more relaxed in a way because I knew it was just me and him, and just play your game and just do it, and it turned out my way.
Q: My memory is that in a playoff against Mark Brooks at Southern Hills, you had an exceptional number of one-putt greens, as well. Do you know how many one-putts you had in that tournament and can you compare the playoff with Brooks against the putting performance today?
Retief Goosen: The way the course is playing, it’s going to come down to chipping and putting. Ernie played not well tee-to-green today and didn’t make anything on the greens and missed the greens on the wrong side, and then you make a big number.
Obviously today I putted the best from other days, but I missed more greens, and the way the course was starting to play, it’s not easy hitting greens and you’re going to be putting off the fringe and you’re going to be doing all those sort of things.
You know, I think the way the course is playing, it’s important to save pars, and I was just playing for pars, and I keep telling myself keep playing for pars and you can win this event, and it turned out that way.
Q: At Southern Hills part of the story was how after the 72nd hole you talked with your sports psychologist and got focused for the playoff the next day. Do you still work with him, and how did you develop this demeanor that has allowed you to handle the pressure like this in two U.S. Opens?
Retief Goosen: I always felt like my swing was pretty much there, but I knew on the inside I wasn’t thinking right. I wasn’t positive enough, not focusing enough on what’s in hand and thinking of too many other things going around the course. That’s when I started working with Jos and we probably worked for two and a half, three years, and then won the U.S. Open. But I haven’t worked with Jos now probably coming up a year and a half, we haven’t been working. I felt like he’s done to me what he needed to do, and he’s helped me out of bad situations. He’s now since then been working with Ernie quite a bit and a few other players, and at the moment I feel like he’s really helped me and there’s no need for us to carry on.
Q: At the end you tipped your cap to the cup. I didn’t know if that was a salute to the course, or did that have any significance?
Retief Goosen: Well, it was more we’ve done it this time on a Sunday and didn’t have to come back on Monday (laughter). I wasn’t going to three-putt this green again, and it was nice to see that putt go in. It was a small relief. You know you’ve done it and it’s a great feeling. You sort of — I’m not really somebody that jumps up and down as we know, but on the inside I was just, like, so happy.
Q: You play as though — you made all those one-putts. You play as though you have no pulse. Can you address even more the — obviously you were nervous on the front. You said you were on edge. Can you address that, please?
Retief Goosen: When you stand over a putt you are nervous. You are shaking on the inside like any other player does, and Tiger does, too. It’s just how you’ve learned to play under that sort of pressure, and in a way it sort of becomes natural in a way that you feel like I can only play my best golf when I’m really under pressure.
Sometimes when you’re not under pressure, your focusing is not there, and you might not make the putts. But when you’re sort of under pressure, it’s sort of a must thing; you must focus and you must make the putt, and that’s what I feel when I stand over it.
Q: There was a lot of complaining about the course conditions amongst the players. What did you think of the setup and how did you not let it affect you?
Retief Goosen: Well, the course, when we got here on Monday and Tuesday, everybody thought, well, this is great, the course is in perfect condition. The course was. It’s just the last — since after the rain on Thursday, it was very hot Friday and Saturday and the greens and the whole course is starting to dry out more and more, and today, the greens today, I hope they get them back alive again. It doesn’t matter from which side of the hole you putt from, it’s a quick putt. Uphill was quick, downhill was quick. Downhill you couldn’t stop it. The greens were just unbelievably quick.
You know, poa annua grass can be a little bit difficult to putt on. It can bounce around a bit. I’m happy to have had all these one putts. You can easily go the wrong way on these greens.
Q: I’m not at all implying that you’ve fallen down dead or anything since your last U.S. Open title, but do you feel this really validates you as the world class player, and secondly, how good was a 71 out there today in your view?
Retief Goosen: Well, winning another U.S. Open I don’t think puts you as a great player. This game can turn around on you very quickly, and next week or the week after when I tee it up, you’re just the same player again as the rest of the field. You’ve got to play hard to win.
What was the second part of the question?
Q: How good was a 71 out there today?
Retief Goosen: When I arrived this morning, or lunchtime, about 1 o’clock, obviously television is everywhere and coverage was starting, and they were going on that the average score out there is 78. So you’re like thinking, well, 78, average score out there. You know, you’re thinking, well, par is not going to be a possibility out there. I knew that obviously if I shoot par today, I’m going to win this tournament by quite a few shots.
So I think at one stage I sort of thought that maybe level par is going to win the tournament, so that means I’d have to shoot 5 over today to win. Obviously Phil played very well on the back nine and I had to grind it out a bit more.
Q: How old were you the first time you played golf with Ernie? I understand y’all go back a long way. The other is I think what Steve was asking you about was maybe your name being on there twice in a place in history. Do you feel that puts you further along in history?
Retief Goosen: I’m immensely proud to be on this trophy. I was proud to be on it once, and to be on it twice is unbelievable. It’s a great feeling to be on there twice. There’s so many great names on this trophy. I’m really looking forward to coming back to defend it, and hopefully I’ve got another couple of good years under my belt.
You know, I’ve played with Ernie really since I was 14 years old, so we’ve known each other now for 21 years. Playing with him today, you know, we’re good friends and we get along very well. You know, I flew with him from England to here the week of the Memorial, and it’s nice to go by Ernie Els Airways. It’s quite a comfy flight.
Q: Congratulations again, Retief. When did you hook up with Colin Vernon and how did he help you out this week?
Retief Goosen: Colin, as we know, has worked with past major champion Paul Lawrie, and him and Paul split up I think October last year. After The Presidents Cup, Greg, my caddie, was retiring because his wife is expecting I think this week or next week, and he said to me that he wasn’t going to be caddying anymore because he told his wife that he won’t be caddying anymore while she’s late pregnant and when the baby is there.
So he left in December after the Million Dollar, and I was sort of then not really sure who I was going to go for. I did ask Fanny, she was caddying for Nick. She said she would love to, but she’s sort of thinking of retiring, as well, pretty soon, and just caddying for me for a year wouldn’t really work out. Then IMG mentioned to me that Colin who caddied for Paul Lawrie is available, and me and Colin get along very well, and I asked him and here we are.
Q: How did he help you this week?
Retief Goosen: Colin is a very relaxed guy by nature. I mean, he tells you what he thinks, but at the end of the shot he wants you to do what you feel you have to do. He’s not trying to talk you into doing what he thinks you should do. You know, Colin is more relaxed out there than me. He’s just one of those guys that nothing really puts him off.
Q: I’m sitting here just jotting down names of players that won a U.S. Open that seemed to come back fairly quickly with a second. Is it an extra club in the bag or what is it? Having won the first one, Janzen, Stewart, Strange, North, Woods, Els, guys that come relatively quickly for their U.S. Open. You join that club now. How do you explain that? Is there an explanation?
Retief Goosen: Well, they say the first one is the toughest, but I’ll tell you, the second one is just as tough. I don’t really believe that winning the second one is any easier. I think it’s just experience and self-belief that makes you stay in the hunt and winning that second one. I think that’s what I felt and keep telling myself the last couple of days, that you’ve done it before, you can do it again. Just get out there and do it.
Rand Jerris: Retief, thank you. Congratulations on your outstanding play this week.
Source – USGA