Goosen's US Open to win or lose
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2005 US Open | Round Three | 19 Jun 2005
It might just be that we saw the winning putt of the 2005 US Open 24 hours earlier than anticipated. Retief Goosen’s birdie putt from just of the green at the 18th hole in round three, took him three clear of the rest of the field. Although there are still many twists and turns remaining in this intriguing event, Goosen is, as he has been since virtually the end of round one, the man who everyone must catch.
Goosen’s twenty foot putt from just off the left edge of the green at the last, completed an amazing bounce back from a double bogey at the 13th which threatened to blow his chance of dominating the tournament into the last day. At that relatively short par four, Goosen drove it left into the lengthy rough and although he hit a good recovery, it released and ran through the green into an almost impossible position. He hit a nice little pitch but again it was difficult to control and it ran down and off the front of the green. He pitched back but got caught up in the false front and was left with a fifteen footer which he missed. He was back at even par and all of a sudden there were perhaps fifteen whose last day chances were given a great boost.
Goosen’s tee shot at the 14th suggested that the double bogey had further unsettled him when it was pushed right into the sandy area. Up against the lengthy, almost tussock type, grass he somehow fashioned and shaped a shot out of that and around the trees thirty yards ahead of him bringing it to rest some fifteen feet from the hole. When he made that he had quickly answered any doubts he or others may have had. At the very next, the tough 15th, he hit his tee shot to 14 feet and again holed it to be back where he was two holes earlier. It was gutsy stuff from the South African who showed little emotion to indicate either elation or horror at the events of the previous three holes.
At the 16th he drove it in the right rough but made a good solid par and the at the 17th he hit his 7 iron to 7 feet and it appeared that this may be the opportunity to establish the break that would be so important on what will be a testing final day. He surprisingly missed that and then drove it in the rough at the last. He was only able to smash a sand iron out of that but it ran up onto the front left side of the green and then fed off to the left leaving a putt of some twenty feet up and across the fringe grass. When he made that the gap was three and given his capacity to put a lid on the many emotions he will experience tomorrow, Goosen is the man to beat both mentally and on the scorecard.
While his finish over the last few holes was impressive, so was his birdie at the 11th. After driving it in the rough along the right hand side of the fairway it was all he could do to move the ball out of the rough but he managed to find a way to get it to release from well short of the green up to twenty feet and when he holed that he had moved the three under and was two clear. Then came the bogey at the 12th and the double at the 13th.
Olin Browne and Jason Gore appeared the least likely to throw down a challenge to Goosen as day three began but at the end they were the closest to the runaway leader. To say their performances were impressive is a major understatement. Given their relative lack of exposure to this level previously, they handled the fickleness and rollercoaster of US Open contention with as much, if not greater, aplomb than many of their more credentialed rivals. Their repeat exposure to that stage on day four will be watched with much interest. Brown’s late surge with birdies at the 15th and 17th have given him a great chance to better his previous best US Open finish when 5th at Congressional in 1997.
Apart from Goosen’s class act, Gore’s story is perhaps the one creating most interest in an already captivating week. The Nationwide Tour player, who has played previously on the USPGA Tour, almost defied logic with the manner in which he clung to what he had created over the first thirty six holes and his birdie at the last will see him playing in the last group with Goosen on day four. Despite every player at this level’s self belief, I think if you had have told Gore at the start of the week that this is where he would find himself after 54 holes he would have had you put away somewhere and the key thrown away.
Two other players who perhaps would have been given little hope at the start of the week of being where they are currently, are New Zealander Michael Campbell and Australian Mark Hensby. Campbell has had a horror run in the US in recent years and it was only two months ago that his game started to return to the game we know he is capable of. His tee to green game was not perhaps as sharp as it had been over the first 36 holes but he was saved on several occasions by his putter and he now finds himself just four out of the lead and well placed to beat his previous best US Open performance, a 12th at Pebble Beach in 2000.
Hensby finished 5th at the Masters in April and has had an outstanding eighteen months on the USPGA Tour but this is his first US Open and just his third major. He has great faith in himself however and not only did he hang in there today, he took it to those ahead. A birdie at the second had him sharing the lead and although he would produce soft bogeys at the 3rd and 4th holes, he found a way to make the turn at even par for the tournament and was still very much in the fight. He became more so when he pitched it close from the rough at the par five 10th, to move within one of both Goosen and Gore. He will be a little disappointed with his finish but he is still very much in the mix and given the lack of fairways he has hit this week, his has been a quite sensational effort.
David Toms is on his own at two over and five back, the five dropped shots in the last two holes on Friday looming even larger as a hurdle to overcome.
At three over is Tiger Woods who, when he finished and found himself just three out of the lead, must have been licking his lips at the prospect of chasing down Goosen and others tomorrow. He still is well in contention no doubt but the task is now just that much harder courtesy of Goosen’s grandstand finish. Still, he is hitting plenty of greens and if he can find enough fairways to allow him to be zero in with his iron play then he might apply enough early pressure to unsettle Goosen, three groups behind.
Lee Westwood and K.J. Choi still have outside chances dependant on their own, and Goosen’s form, tomorrow and Peter Hedblom has surprised with his comeback from an opening round of 77 to be level with Woods, Choi and Westwood.
Of the other Australians Steve Allan did well to rebound from a horror run in the middle of his round when he dropped five shots in seven holes. At four over he is well placed to at worst record his best ever finish in a major, the previous best was 42nd here at this very course in 1999.
Adam Scott’s shaky start, where he dropped four shots on the way to the turn, cost him any chance it would seem but his is certainly a big improvement on his previous US Open efforts. Ogilvy at 7 over and Lonard at 9 over are the next best.
It would now appear that this event is Retief Goosen’s to win or lose. He is three clear of two players who seem unlikely US Open winners but those just behind are capable of catching the coolest customer golf has seen in some time although they need help from the South African. As we witnessed at the 13th today however, even Goosen is capable of the occasional blunder. The chasing pack will be praying for more of those tomorrow but it might be that their prayers go unanswered.