Goosen 'very excited' to be off the injured list

Retief Goosen, left, with fellow Internationals Ryo Ishikawa and K.T. Kim.

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MELBOURNE, Australia – As affirmations go, this one was totally necessary.

After all, Retief Goosen saying, “I’m very excited,” left you with a sense of relief. You wouldn’t or couldn’t have known otherwise. Though he didn’t deliver the words with much of a smile or emotion, you’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The quietest and most stoic one is excited to be at his sixth Presidents Cup.

For good reason, too.

“Who knows? It might be my last,” he said Wednesday.

And with those words, finally there was a ripple. He showed a smile and offered a bit of emotion. The Presidents Cup might just be an endeavor that matters greatly to Goosen, so at 42 and coming off of a career worst year on the PGA Tour, maybe he senses time and opportunity catching up with him. Certainly, the aches and pain that come with the job have chased him down.

“I (pretty much) took two months off just to rest,” Goosen said. “But I’ve played three times in the last month and the back is feeling better.”

Ah, yes. The back. It is a sore spot with so many professional golfers and Goosen is no exception. He began battling pain in his lower back earlier this season – “a degenerative disc,” he called it – and the South African has tried everything. Less practice. Rest. More practice. More rest. Finally, Goosen said he was going to take the big step.

“I was very close to having surgery,” Goosen said.

It would have ended his 2011 campaign and most likely his participation for the Presidents Cup. Tempting as it was to address the problem, something told Goosen to take another route and so he did. “I went with a good chiropractor and a physio,” he said. “I just did rehab and finally, I’m getting through the ball better.”

Thus, he’s prepared to help the International Team cause yet again. In five previous trips to this competition, Goosen has compiled an 11-10-3 record and while there have been individual highlights – in 2005 he went 4-0-1 and beat Tiger Woods in singles – the two-time U.S. Open winner has experienced heavy doses of team disappointment. There have been four losses and a tie.

Still, Goosen is optimistic that this time will be different and what fuels that attitude is the stage – Royal Melbourne. With fast and sloping greens, “it’s like Shinnecock in ’04,” Goosen said, and the crease of a smile is for good reason. It was in 2004 when Goosen tamed Shinnecock Hills’ lightning-fast greens to win his second U.S. Open, and who can blame him for drawing on such a reminder?

“You can putt off these greens very easily,” he said.

One wouldn’t expect such mishaps from Goosen, at least not given his stature in the game. Yet 2011 simply hasn’t been good to him. In fact, in his 10th PGA Tour season he failed to win at least $1 million for the first time, settling for $796,360. He had but one top 10 in 16 starts and his efforts in the biggest tournaments can only be described as abysmal – MC at the Masters, T-23 in the U.S. Open and both the Open Championship and PGA Championship resulted in withdrawals after just one round.

Heck, perhaps “abysmal” is being generous, but the point is, Goosen is hoping the pain is behind him and thus could this week’s Presidents Cup serve as an engine to drive away the misery of 2011. Still in possession of a lofty world ranking (presently 51st), Goosen qualified sixth in the International Team standings and in Thursday’s foursomes action, he’ll go off alongside Robert Allenby in Match No. 3 in an effort to give the International Team the early boost it rarely gets.

Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson will provide the opposition, but it’s the challenge of Royal Melbourne and this Presidents Cup quest that provides for his excitement.

That’s right, he’s excited.

In case you couldn’t tell.

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