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Goosen's golden as he tops Brooks in Open playoff
This time around, the capricious lightning rod that Retief Goosen calls his putter did anything but humiliate him.
A day after he three-putted the 72nd hole in one of the most pitiable collapses in U.S. Open history, the soft-spoken South African's flat stick flattened Mark Brooks.
Much to Retief's relief, he one-putted eight of the first 10 holes of the 18-hole playoff and cruised to a even-par 70, holding off Brooks by a more-than-comfy two shots to claim the 101st Open championship Monday at Southern Hills Country Club.
After horrifically three-jacking from 10 feet on the final hole of regulation, a gander at the Goose's performance on the greens Monday proved he had somehow buried the past -- sort of like he repeatedly buried putts against Brooks.
"You kind of expect guys to get up and down and to make some putts," Brooks said. "He kind of did it with every one of them."
Ironically, just as Goosen stroked a tournament-cementing birdie putt from 15 feet at No. 10 to take a five-shot lead, someone in the gallery hollered "Knockout." This time, his putter was Excalibur.
All past sins were formally forgiven when, after leaving a lag putt 6 feet short at the final green Monday, Goosen calmly rolled his ball in for a bogey.
"I wasn't gonna run it by again," Goosen said.
A bad run on the greens in general prompted him to change putters two weeks ago. He won't be placed in the same putting pantheon as fellow South African Bobby Locke just yet, but his playoff putting vanquished Sunday's ghosts, perhaps.
"I made everything I looked at," said Goosen, 32, who joined countrymen Gary Player and Ernie Els as Open champions.
One thing he didn't look at was TV. Goosen said he went to his hotel Sunday night, still licking his wounds, and didn't care to relive his ill-timed malady at No. 18. "I didn't watch TV," he said. "Well, nothing to do with golf."
It wasn't exactly must-see TV in the playoff, either. Officially, the match took 4 hours, 10 minutes -- but in reality, it ended at the turn. With the players tied at 1 under through No. 6, Brooks, 40, bogeyed four of the next six holes to fall a hopeless five shots behind. The Texan had won four of his seven PGA Tour titles via the playoff route, but this developed into a playoff rout.
If winning the Open is all about fairways and greens, Brooks was 0-of-2. He hit just eight greens and seven fairways after ranking first and third in the field, respectively, during four rounds of regulation play.
A stroke in arrears early, Goosen's redemption began on No. 6. He knocked an 8-iron to within 6 feet and birdied the 175-yard par-3 to pull even, then took a one-stroke lead when Brooks' iron from the seventh tee strayed into the deep rough and resulted in a bogey.
Brooks' tee shots leaked like an Oklahoma oil well. He spanked shots into the rough on Nos. 7 through 10, bogeying three of the holes. The worst of the bunch resulted in a two-shot swing on No. 9, when Brooks brooked the oaks and didn't live to talk about it.
"I got punished severely in the rough," Brooks said. "That was kind of the difference. I got locked up in the rough and didn't really have a chance to play any shots."
Holding a one-stroke lead, Goosen laced a long iron down the ninth fairway, whereupon Brooks followed with a sweeping hook into the gallery. With a huge tree partially obstructing his backswing, Brooks was forced to abruptly pick up the club to make contact, but hit the shot fat and moved it 25 feet.
"It was not in a good place," Brooks said. "I was hoping to hack it out, make it come out low and hooking, and get it up by the green, somehow."
Still in the rough, he knocked his third swipe onto the green and two-putted for bogey. Goosen, coolly playing the percentages, aimed for the middle of the green and buried a curling 18-footer with three feet of break for birdie, claiming a three-shot lead at the turn. It was his seventh one-putt of the front nine, which included clutch sand saves at Nos. 1, 3 and 8.
Another wayward drive led to a bogey at No. 10 for Brooks, allowing Goosen the opportunity to all but lock it up. He readily converted by dropping a left-to-right slider from 15 feet to take a five-shot lead at 3 under with eight holes remaining.
"It was a little deflating, energy-wise, when he birdied 9 and 10," Brooks admitted.
Spraying it around off the tee, Brooks' short game was no better. He caught a routine wedge shot amateurishly fat on No. 12, then left a shot in the bunker at the 13th green.
After his birdie on No. 6, Goosen said he fell back on his international match-play experience and tried to keep pouring the pressure on Brooks without taking unnecessary risks.
"I was just trying to keep the momentum, keep the ball in the fairway," said Goosen, who was 12th at the Open last year and has two 10th-place finishes in the British Open. "(Holes) 9 and 10 were really the holes that changed the game."
Goosen, ranked No. 44 in the world, had a long talk with his caddie after Sunday's meltdown and promised to put the issue behind him.
"(Sunday), unfortunately, what happened was tough," he said. "If it had happened on the 17th hole, it wouldn't have been that bad. But it happened on 18.
"I just had to let it go."
Time will tell whether fans let it go, too.