Less than 24 hours after missing a putt of less than 2 feet that would have given him the U.S. Open, Retief Goosen out-dueled Mark Brooks by two strokes over an 18 hole playoff to win the title that almost slipped away.
Goosen one-putted eight of the first 10 holes and took a five-stroke advantage when he birdied the ninth and tenth holes, from 12 and 20 feet respectively, while Brooks struggled with bogeys on each. He was 3-under par at the turn, so his three bogeys on the closing seven holes didn't hurt a bit. It didn't even matter that he bogeyed the 18th hole for the second consecutive day.
"Today I showed myself something," said the 32-year-old Goosen, winner of four European PGA Tour events. "I didn't look at it like it would be the end of the world if I didn't win, but I did win, and that's a great feeling. What an honor to be with Arnie and Tiger and Payne Stewart.
"I learned a lot about myself this week, and I know that I can handle a little bit of pressure. I felt like I needed to win this today somehow, from what happened yesterday."
Brooks appeared headed in the right direction when he made birdie on the par-4 third hole. Goosen tied him at 1-under-par with a perfect 8-iron to 6 feet on the par-3 sixth. From there Goosen changed from being an escape artist to a steady player while Brooks lost his aim off the tee. After hitting the first four fairways, Brooks found just two of the last 10.
"A lot of things are going to change in my life now, "said Goosen, a native of South Africa who has been living in Londer for the past eight years. "I look forward to what's coming up."
Goosen, who had shared or held the lead outright after each round of the Championship, became the third South African to hold the Open trophy, following in the footsteps of Gary Player (1965) and Ernie Els (1994 and 1997).
He opened with a 4-under-par 66 and followed that with a 70-69-71 for a four-round total of 4-under 276. Brooks reached his 4-under total through Sunday with rounds of 72-61-70-70.
Tom Kite matched Brooks' 64 in the forth round. And Hale Irwin started strong with a round of 67 before finishing 12-over.
In contrast, defending champion Tiger Woods opened with a 4-over 74, his highest score in 118 consecutive competitive rounds (since the first round of the 2000 Masters), only climbed to a tie for 12th at the end of the week.
On Saturday night, there were six golfers within two strokes of the lead, with Goosen sharing the top spot with Stewart Cink at 5-under 205. Brooks, Rocco Mediate and Sergio Garcia were at 206, and Phil Mickelson was at 207.
All of them slipped back early on Sunday except Goosen, Brooks and Cink. Cink three-putted the 72nd hole, missing a two-footer, that cost him a playoff chance.
Starts - 8
Best Finish - Winner 2001, 2004
Rds - 26
Cuts Made - 5
Top 3 - 2
Top 5 - 2
Top 10 - 2
Top 25 - 4
Scores in 60s - 6
Rds Under Par - 6
Earnings - $2,263,082