The Goose is loose: Retief Goosen wins Hoag Classic
Fortune favors the brave.
From the beginning, the tale of the final round followed that script for Retief Goosen.
Goosen outplayed the field by three strokes in the final round, finishing at 15 under par to win the Hoag Classic on Sunday at Newport Beach Country Club.
An eight-under-par round started with a bounce on the first hole. Playing his second shot as part of the final grouping, Goosen instantly flipped the leaderboard when his approach struck the flagstick in the air and dropped in for an eagle.
“[Hole] No. 1 was a tricky bunker shot coming out of the bunker, and you had to fly it over that ridge,” Goosen said. “My main goal was to obviously land it up there as far as I can, and I was thinking, ‘If I hit a good shot, probably finish 5 feet past the hole,’ and it just came out a little hotter than I expected, and it hit the flag and went straight in, so that was very, very lucky.
“Whenever you hit a flag, it could go anywhere. It could have come back off the green. That hole has treated me well this week. … When you get off to a start like that, you know today’s your day, but anybody can come alive and go low, and I just kept grinding away.”
Then he followed with birdies on Nos. 2 and 3. Goosen made par on No. 4, capping a two-day stretch in which he carded a combined eight under par on the first four holes of the course.
Goosen, 53, had one prior win on the PGA Tour Champions circuit, that win coming at the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship in 2019. During his time on the PGA Tour, he won two major titles — the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004.
The final group boasted a combined six U.S. Open titles, as Ernie Els (1994 and 1997) and Lee Janzen (1993 and 1998) each had two of their own.
“We spoke about that in the locker room and said, “That’s not going to happen too often,’” Goosen said. “Three guys playing together, six U.S. Opens. We had a great vibe between the three of us today on the course.”
The Hoag Classic returned to Newport Beach Country Club for the first time in two years, when it was one of the final sporting events to be completed before COVID-19 shutdowns.
Els, who was the defending champion, entered Sunday with a one-shot lead, but four bogeys in eight holes to begin the day helped supply ample breathing room for Goosen, his fellow South African countryman.
K.J. Choi was the runner-up at 11 under. Stephen Ames and Janzen finished tied for third at nine under, and Doug Barron and Tim Petrovic each carded four-under-par rounds to tie for fifth at seven under.
Els endured a two-over-par final round and placed seventh (-6), and Rocco Mediate and Bernhard Langer tied for eighth (-5).
With the victory, Goosen moved into second in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, buoyed by the $300,000 first-place check he took home. Miguel Angel Jiménez continues to lead the senior tour after finishing tied for 15th (-3).
A solid round kept Choi in contention, albeit from a distance. Choi birdied No. 13 to move into second by his lonesome, which at the time put him at three-under on the day without dropping a stroke. The tournament remained in search of drama, though, as Goosen maintained a four-shot lead.
Choi did his best to provide suspense, navigating his club and ball around a troublesome tree on No. 16 to roll his shot onto the green, giving himself a short putt for birdie he converted.
“Wonderful swing,” Choi said. “Everything not touching the trees, and the gap was just one foot in between the tree and my ball’s direction, which scared me sometimes. Six-iron and 165 yards … fantastic, [to within] two feet. Great swing and shot of the day.”
A bogey at No. 17 ended any thoughts of a comeback for Choi, who birdied four of the last six holes, including the par five No. 18.
Petrovic vaulted himself up the leaderboard by stringing together four birdies in a row from Nos. 9 through 12, but he faded late with back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17.
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