A spate of injuries have seen the South African slip down the world rankings. From being firmly ensconced inside the top 10 to now lying outside the top 50 the Goose is in need of a comeback. He’s confident it is coming soon Spring in his step: Goosen, who turned 43 in February, believes he still has what it takes to win another major
alive! I putted nicely in the Africa Open and the Joburg Open so hopefully I’ll keep that going.
With over US$27 million in career earnings, two US Open titles and 44 professional wins, Retief Goosen has guaranteed his place as one of the greats of the game. The problem is that he’s not quite done yet. At 43 years old, there’s still life in ‘the Goose’ and, having recovered from a string of injuries, he is hoping to regain the form that kept him in the top 10 of the World Ranking for over 250 weeks. The early 40s, it seems, are an odd time in a golfer’s career – it’s not quite the twilight years, but you can certainly start to see the shadows lengthening and, as much as you’re hoping for a few more big wins, you can’t help but ponder the fairways and the riches of the senior tour.
Compleat Golfer; Photo: AFP
Retief, how’s the state of your game at the moment? Much better thanks. Anything else? (Laughs) My game is slowly on its way back. My health is a lot better and I’ve been working hard on my back over the past three months. If you have a healthy back and can practise regularly, you can start playing better and I’ve not been able to do that since April last year. But I’ve worked hard with [physio] Cornel Driessen and I must say that since the SA Open my game has really started to come back. And the belly putter seems to suit you – it’s working well? Yeah, the putter worked really well last year, but only because I missed a lot of greens! I mean I topped the putting stats purely because I’ve been chipping and putting well after missing too many greens. I’m lucky my short game has kept me 86
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You’re getting yourself into contention without quite closing it out. Is it a just a matter of needing to get over the line? Yes, it’s a question of trusting yourself again when you haven’t been in contention for a while and you hit a bad shot at the wrong time. In the Africa Open I had a chance to win but I just didn’t hit my irons well enough in the final round to put myself into a position to make enough putts. Then in the Joburg Open I didn’t feel too well over the weekend [Goosen suffered from a stomach bug] and lost momentum. Going back to your injuries, it seems like it’s been a couple of years now that you’ve had some sort of ailment, from leg to toes to eyes and back. Are you fully patched up now and ready to go? I think so, yes. I’m trying to behave and not be too wild [laughs], not too many extreme sports! Although, I wasn’t even in the water when I hurt myself on the boat – I pulled the trailer over my toe. So yes, the last few years have felt like one injury after another, which is disappointing, but really since the South African Open last year I feel like I’m in one piece and that I can start playing again. Is the confidence back as well? I need to work on the confidence a little bit more now, trust my swing a bit more. But when you haven’t practised much it isn’t easy. CONTINUED ON PAGE 84 HKGOLFER.COM
There are a few players that jump up and down on the course as well as off the course. I’m one of those who don’t jump up and down on the course but probably do off the course – and maybe that’s why I’m full of injuries! CONTINUED FROM PAGE 86
Global golfer: The South African counts St Andrews (top) and Augusta as his two favourite courses in the world; Goosen had a red-hot putter to thank at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 (opposite) when he held off Phil Mickelson to claim his second US Open in brilliant fashion 84
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As we sit here, you’re really chatty and personable, yet on course there’s a ‘game face’ and you don’t show much emotion. Does it bother you that people assume that the oncourse Retief Goosen is the real you? Well, that’s going to be the case with almost any pro. There are a few players that jump up and down on the course as well as off the course. I’m one of those who don’t jump up and down on the course but probably do off the course – and maybe that’s why I’m full of injuries! But every player has his own way of getting around and for me that’s my comfort zone. Unfortunately people don’t get to see what you’re really like and they judge you by what they see on TV. And how was your experience of The Presidents Cup last year? It was great, but it was disappointing. I really thought that this time around we had a pretty
good chance, with a lot of Aussies, a lot of home support and a lot of our guys had played that course so many times. But it shows you that in this game it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve played the course or how big the support is, you’ve still got to hit the shots. Are the teams quite evenly matched or do the Americans have an advantage in that they play a similar format every year, alternating The Presidents Cup with the Ryder Cup? Well it seems like they do, especially in the foursomes. We lose 80 per cent of our matches in the foursomes so we start the day four points down, then we claw it back in the betterball and play foursomes in the afternoon and we give five points back. And if you go into the final day five points back, it’s not easy. Do you have any ambitions to become a Presidents Cup captain in the future? One day yes, when I’m old! A long time from now... Do you ever sit back and take stock of your career and set yourself new goals? I’m at a point in my career when I need to concentrate on winning more tournaments. I’m 43 now and I think I still have a good three years ahead of me. So I’m trying to get my game HKGOLFER.COM
back into shape and win a few more events. But who knows in this game? I mean, my best days could still be coming, you never know. I could be a great senior player. So is the senior tour on your mind at all? I think every player who gets to this age thinks about it, thinks about scaling back, playing only in the events they want to play and spending more time with the family instead of being on the road all the time. Do your business interests come into your thinking as well? Well yes, there’s the wine [check out thegoosewines.com, although it is not yet available in Hong Kong]. And I used my time off last year to concentrate on that. It’s not an easy product to set up and it takes a lot of effort to build your market and get your name out there. But the wine is doing very well, we’ve had some very good ratings and it’s exciting times because the wine is on its way up. At the end of last year, you slipped out of the top 50 of the World Ranking. That was disappointing and it all came about when I took time off to recover from my injury and I dropped about 25 spots. But it’s made me more determined to get back into it and play well. You’ve had an incredible career, but what would you need to achieve over the next few years to be able to look back and say you’ve achieved all you wanted to? I still think I have the ability to win another major. I still hit the ball long enough – although I’m 20 to 30 yards behind the long hitters – but I think this year is going to be a good one for me. My body is feeling a lot better so I’m looking forward to some good events this year. As a professional golfer, how much looking back do you do – at tournaments where you could have done better? Everybody does that every week! There’s only one guy who is happy – the other 155 guys are upset and thinking I wish I could have done that. Unfortunately golf is the way it is and there’s only one winner every week and even the best players in the world only win a few times a year. Are there any memories that haunt you – such as Pinehurst in 2005? Well yes, that one was very disappointing. That final round [of 80, when Retief started the day with a three-shot lead] was a bit of a shock to the system, no doubt about it. I went in HKGOLFER.COM
Probably the biggest change is that I’m 40 yards shorter than I was when I started [on tour]. Even with the older technology I was longer than I am now – when I first joined the European Tour, I was the longest hitter on tour and now I average about 290 yards and I’m only 80th! thinking I could win and shot a big number, so it was really disappointing. That round is one that I’d like to have over. You see all the up-and-coming youngsters in South Africa. Who is the next big star? Well they are all youngsters now, aren’t they? Branden Grace won last week, Charl [Schwartzel] and Louis [Oosthuizen] are playing great and I think there must be about 20 South Africans playing on the European Tour and I’m sure one of them will break through like Charl and Louis did. We’ve also got lots of good amateur prospects. What is the biggest change that you’ve seen in your 20 years on tour? Twenty years, has it been that long? Yes, it was the end of 1990 that I started – so 21 years ago. Probably the biggest change is that I’m 40 yards shorter than I was when I started. Even with the older technology I was longer than I am now – when I first joined the European Tour, I was the longest hitter on tour and now I average about 290 yards and I’m only 80th! Modern technology has brought the short hitter in line with the long hitters. The long guys are still long, but instead of being 50 yards ahead, they are only 30 yards ahead now. It means more players can win. HK Golfer・APR 2012