2005: PGA Tour - Goose returns to rare air at International

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Castle Rock, Colo.

Retief Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, is part of a somewhat odd coupling in golf lore. He has become linked with Jason Gore – who last week earned a battlefield promotion from the Nationwide Tour to the PGA Tour. The two played excellent golf for three rounds of the U.S. Open in June, but both collapsed in the final round to eliminate any chance at victory.

Gore since has won three consecutive Nationwide Tour events to make his big leap. And Goosen, on the same day that Gore earned his promotion, came through with a $900,000 payoff after winning The International. Goosen, after taking a moment to reflect on his victory, took time to congratulate Gore on his.

“That’s great,” Goosen said Aug. 7 when told about Gore’s victory at the Nationwide Tour’s Cox Classic. “He’s such a nice guy and a powerful player as well. Obviously, that bad round (84 in the final round at Pinehurst No. 2) hasn’t affected his game. It shows you he’s got a good mental attitude, and that’s what you need in this game.”

Goosen doesn’t seem to have been adversely affected by his final-round 81 at the Open, either.

While The International is hardly a major championship, the final round was an exhausting day that separated the great players from the good ones.

It made sense, then, that Goosen finished the long afternoon with victory in hand.

Goosen overcame Brandt Jobe down the stretch and outlasted the rest of the field over 36 grueling holes Sunday to win in Colorado. To this point, it had been flops in the final rounds of the U.S. and British Opens that have defined Goosen’s season. But with his triumph at Castle Pines, he achieved the perfect launch into this week’s PGA Championship.

“I wouldn’t say I lost confidence,” Goosen said of the 81 and 74 he shot in the final rounds at Pinehurst and St. Andrews, respectively. “But I was disappointed in the way I played.

“At some stage, you figure the tide is going to turn.”

At The International, Goosen scored 15 points over the final two rounds to finish with 32, one better than Jobe, in the modified Stableford scoring system, which awards 5 points for eagles, 2 for birdies, zero for pars and deducts 1 point for bogeys and 3 for double bogeys and higher.

Jeff Brehaut opened the final round with four consecutive birdies to get in contention and finished third with 29 points. Big-hitting Hank Kuehne was fourth and Charles Howell finished fifth.

Although Goosen has played well enough to be ranked fifth in the world, he was without a victory this year. Two of his best chances were lost in the final round of majors – first in a meltdown at Pinehurst that denied him his third U.S. Open title, then in a bad round at St. Andrews that contributed to an easy victory for Tiger Woods.

The competition was nowhere near as stiff in this one – Phil Mickelson was the only other member of the Big Five who played – but there was nothing easy about this day.

The first 36-hole finish on Tour since September 2003 – played at mile-high altitude on the hilly, 7,619-yard Castle Pines course – was a complete mental and physical test.

“My legs started feeling like jelly,” said Goosen, who figured he drank a bottle of water per hole over the final 18.

As the day wore on and fatigue set in, the shotmaking suffered.

It forced Goosen to put his typically methodical spin on what is often one of the more exciting events on Tour. He hit safely into the par-5 17th green for a two-putt birdie, then saved par on No. 18 with a 4-foot putt after hitting his approach into the second cut of fringe.

Jobe, meanwhile, was all over the place.

The veteran, who grew up near Denver and dominated junior golf in Colorado, could have won the tournament with a birdie on 18, but his chances were hurt when his drive nestled into the rough. His second shot landed 30 feet from the cup and when he left the birdie putt short, he put his hand on his hip and looked down, bemoaning the great opportunity lost.

“It felt like a marathon,” Jobe said. “It didn’t have a lot of feel to it and I’m a player who likes to play on feel.”

Jobe made four consecutive birdies – three to close his third round and one to start his fourth – to take a 9-point lead early in the afternoon. But he closed with four bogeys and one double over the last 17 holes to wind up short of his first Tour victory.

Goosen gave Jobe opportunities to win.

He missed the fairway on four of the final nine holes, but made six pars, two bogeys and one birdie to hang on for his sixth career Tour title.

“At some stage, I was sort of wondering where my golf was going,” Goosen said. “I started practicing more than I used to. I started working harder on my putting than I normally do and that started paying off.”

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