8/10 • 3 - 6 PM
Retief Goosen surveyed the weather and laughed a bit ruefully after completing an even-par 71 in Round 1 of the 42nd U.S. Senior Open at Saucon Valley Country Club.
“With the conditions this morning, I’m happy with the round,” said Goosen. “I mean, it was brutal. Unfortunately, the sun is going to shine this afternoon and we’ll all be forgotten. You can throw away your notes.”
Goosen, 53, of South Africa, will certainly never be forgotten for his two U.S. Open victories, in 2001 at Southern Hills and 2004 at Shinnecock Hills. And though he correctly predicted that the scoring in Thursday’s afternoon wave would eclipse his morning effort, he was proud of how his game held up in the steady rain, mixed with a few downpours.
“It was a different golf course than the practice rounds,” said Goosen, a co-runner-up to Jim Furyk in this championship last year at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club. “On hole No. 2, I hit driver, 8-iron in the practice round and today I hit driver, rescue club.”
Goosen also noted an increased premium on finding fairways in the wet conditions (he hit 10 of 14) on the 6,973-yard, par-71 Herbert Strong design that is hosting its record third U.S. Senior Open.
“With the water in it, the rough is like hitting out of iceplant,” said Goosen, who has more than 30 worldwide victories across five professional tours. “I hit a rescue club out of the rough today that didn’t carry more than 50 yards. If you hit it in the rough, you’re not going to hit the green.”
After six top 10s in his first eight starts of 2022 on PGA Tour Champions, including a win in the Hoag Classic in March, Goosen had fallen out of form recently.
“I was struggling with everything, but I’ve worked pretty hard the last few weeks,” said Goosen. “My swing was badly out of plane; I was just trying to get the swing a little bit better and see if my misses are not as wild as in the last few events.”
Last week at the U.S. Open, fellow South African MJ Daffue credited Goosen for his help after Daffue sat among the leaders through 36 holes en route to a T-31 finish at The Country Club. Daffue, 33, who once sold wine for Goosen’s label, plays on the Korn Ferry Tour and is assured of moving onto the PGA Tour next season thanks to his performance on the satellite tour.
“I’ve known him since he was 14,” said Goosen. “He struggled for quite some time and I’ve helped him out with finances, sponsoring him for a few years. He’s hitting the ball solid, so it was just a matter of time. There’s so many good guys that not everyone can be on the Tour, but he’s earned his way in and I’m looking forward to seeing him on TV a lot next year.”
Goosen has placed third and seventh in the season-long standings in his first two years on PGA Tour Champions, and he is sixth so far this year. His longtime nickname provided the moniker for his label, The Goose Wines, which he founded in 2004. When asked how his label stacks up in a field of golf vintners that includes Ernie Els and Luke Donald, he smiled and quickly placed it at the top.
“I keep it nice and small,” said Goosen of the winery based in George, on the west coast of South Africa. “The market is tough, especially over here, but we do well internationally. The other main thing we do is cattle farming.”
Goosen, who also has designed a few golf courses in his homeland and one in China, doesn’t plan to be on PGA Tour Champions forever.
“When you’re playing badly, it’s so easy to say that I’m going to put the sticks away,” he said. “Once I really start struggling, I’ll say goodbye. At some stage I will. I’m not going to play until I’m flippin’ 70, that’s for sure.”
For now, Goosen is hopeful for a weekend like he had last year at Omaha Country Club, when he shot 66-69 to close the gap on Furyk in Round 4 before settling for a tie for second with Mike Weir. He admits that he enjoys the annual challenge the Senior Open presents.
“You need to stay focused in this game and play shot for shot, especially on a golf course like this,” said Goosen. “It’s easy to lose it quickly. I like a golf course that’s playing tough.”
Spoken like a two-time U.S. Open champion.
Ron Driscoll is the senior manager of content for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.