South Africa's Retief Goosen claimed his second U.S. Open title in four years by capturing the 2004 Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y., winning by two strokes over Phil Mickelson and by five over Jeff Maggert. Goosen and Mickelson were the only players to finish under par for the championship on a demanding course that challenged every aspect of the players' games.
Entering the final round with a two-stoke lead over Mickelson and two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, Goosen closed with a 1-over-par 71 for a 4-under total of 276. On a breezy day when the field averaged 78.7 strokes over the stern Shinnecock test, Goosen converted 11 one-putt greens, including five of the closing six holes, into a two-stroke victory. Mickelson, the 2004 Masters Champion, also shot 71 on the final day, falling just short in his bid to claim consecutive major titles. Els closed with an 80 to finish at 7-over-par 287, a distant 11 shots behind the champion.
"It's a great feeling," said Goosen, who three years earlier claimed the title in a playoff at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. "I'm not somebody who will jump up and down, bit on the inside, I'm just so happy."
During the first two rounds of the championship, seasonal weather and light breezes left Shinnecock Hills vulnerable to low scores. Fifty-year-old Jay Haas, Shigeki Maruyama of Japan, and Angel Cabrera of Argentina shared the opening-round lead at 4-under-par 66. Corey Pavin, returning to the site of his 1995 U.S. Open victory, recaptured a bit of the old magic to finish one stroke behind the leaders at 3-under-par 67. In all, 20 players returned sub-par scores in the first round.
The low-scoring trend continued into the second round. Five players, including Goosen, Mickelson, Fred Funk, Stephen Ames and Tim Herron, posted rounds of 4-under-par 66. Once again, 20 players recorded sub-par scores in the second round.
Shinnecock Hills finally revealed its true character on Saturday as abundant sunshine and stronger breezes rendered the course firm and fast. Of the 66 players who made the cut, only three broke par. "I think the course has been smiling the last couple of days, showing its nice teeth," noted Pavin at the completion of his round. "Today, those teeth turned into fangs." Goosen was the only player in the final 16 groups to break par, leading the field with rounds of 70-66-69 for a three-round total of 5-under-par 205.
Tough scoring conditions prevailed again on Sunday, sending the scores of many players well above par. The par-3 seventh ("Redan") and par-4 10th holes emerged as true challenges for the game's elite, and only one player, Robert Allenby, managed to match par in the final round. Still, Goosen and Mickelson played what both players admitted were among the best rounds of their lives. One by one, the other players in the field fell away, leaving the championship to be contested by these two players over the final nine holes.
With three birdies in a four-hole stretch, Mickelson temporarily surged to a one-stroke lead when he sank a five-foot putt for birdie at the 16th to move to 4 under par. Goosen followed with a birdie of his own at 16, then watched from the tee as Mickelson three-putted the 17th for double bogey after finding a greenside bunker with his tee shot. With a two-shot lead, Goosen secured the victory with a sand-save par of his own at the 17th, and two putts from the back of the 18th green.
Defending champion Jim Furyk, returning from a wrist injury that had sidelined him since January, finished in a tie for 48th at 18-over-par 298. Raymond Floyd, who won the 1986 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, received a special exemption into the field but missed the cut.
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