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April 15, 2002

Retief Goosen

CRAIG SMITH: Retief, wonderful building of confidence since you have won the U.S. Open. What has it been like since the last eleven months.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it has been a great honor to be obviously the champion of the U.S. Open, and the last eleven months has been just unbelievable. It is a great feeling standing on the 1st tee being introduced as the U.S. Open Champion. It's really helped my confidence. I have done well since then, and I am really looking forward to coming back here and defend.

From what I understand the golf course is great, and all these people that have worked so hard getting it ready for us. I think it's really going to really lift the spirit for everybody in New York since last year, and every golfer is talking about coming here. So it is going to be unbelievable standing on the 1st tee here to come and defend my title. I am looking forward to it.

Q. CRAIG SMITH: Just from last year it seemed like everyone thought of Retief Goosen as the new kid on the block. You have been a pro for 11 years. What was the difference in playing previous U.S. opens to being good enough to win last June?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I have been around on the European Tour for some time, but I think it's like any sport, if you don't really believe in your ability, then you are not going to make it. I wasn't quite there believing I can do it. Through hard work and practicing and mental side of the game, I have managed to start believing myself a little bit more and obviously winning the U.S. Open has really turned things around for me. Confidence-wise when I stand on the 1st tee now at every tournament I feel like I can win the event. It has been great for me.

Likewise, I am pretty much the same guy still. I don't have any problems going out to restaurants and things like that, so it's great fun, so I am looking forward to Bethpage in a month and a half time.

Q. CRAIG SMITH: Probably been a long time since we talked about last June on Sunday afternoon; I remembered how quickly you gathered yourself to get ready for playoff round. Some of these people were not there in Southern Hills. Take me through some of the rollercoaster ride that you went through mentally from thinking "The U.S. Open is mine," to, "No, I have got to go out and win it all over again?"

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it was a little bit of a shock. I think you stand there and suddenly you just got two putts to win thinking that I might have to make the putt to win; suddenly you are thinking two putts and you are out of here. So at the end of the day I had to make a tough third putt to get into a playoff, but a lot of things went on through my mind. I can't say, unfortunately what I thought when I missed the putt, (laughter) but I knew I still had a chance the next day. I didn't think about losing the event outright. I still had a chance the next day. That night I felt pretty confident for the next day. I have played in this sort of medal Match Play one-on-one quite a few times and the Dunhill Cup in St. Andrews, and I knew I had a good chance of winning next time. I actually felt a little bit more calm and relaxed than I did on Sunday. Coming back on Monday was a great feeling to actually pull it off on finally the last hole.

Q. Will you be playing the Buick Classic the week before to stay sharp?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes, I will be playing the week before. I think it is just down the road here, so probably give me a good feel of the area, and which are the good restaurants to go to. But I will definitely be playing the week before to tune up for this event.

Q. What are your thoughts about this being the peoples' course, the course that anybody can come out and play and what is your experience of playing courses like that?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Not a lot really. I played one public golf course in South Africa in Johannesburg once before, definitely didn't look as in good shape as this one does. Yeah, it's hard to believe that it is -- anybody can come and just tee it up and play unless -- although you have to sleep in a car park the night before, it's great for New York and everything that has been going on.

Q. Have you not had a chance to see the course even today at all?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, unfortunately not. I just was standing outside there having a look at it, and looking at it already, it just feels great. It's got a bit of everything. It has a bit of links; and tree-lined as well, so I think it's going to be a great test. Unfortunately I don't have time - I have got to get back to London tonight, but I will play my few practice rounds a couple of days before the event. I don't think it's any use playing it now because it will change so much, I think, coming up tournament week.

Q. What is life like the morning after The Masters and what did you learn from your performance yesterday?

RETIEF GOOSEN: A bit tired. But I had a great day yesterday. It was fun playing with Tiger. Unfortunately I didn't play well enough to really put any pressure on him and so did the rest of the field, I think, but it was great experience. I learned a lot about my game and hopefully from what I learned will help me in the future and when I am in that sort of situation again.

Q. Do you feel that because most of the players haven't seen this course, not played it very often, certainly by the time the tournament starts, does that give an advantage or disadvantage to anybody, leveling the playing field?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I think definitely somebody -- some of the U.S. Open courses a lot of players have played before in the past and they have a pretty good feel. But 90% of the players who are going to come here have never seen the course before so yeah, it does level it out a little bit.

Q. As you are standing there as defending champion are you starting to feel it now a month and a half away that you are the one that's the one to beat?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it's going to be great coming back here and defend. It's going to be quite thrilling standing on the 1st tee as defending champion on that Thursday. I am going back to Europe now for seven weeks to play a few events on the European Tour, so coming back here again is going to really be exciting. I can't wait for it to arrive.

Q. Have you had a chance in looking at the course in examining what you have seen maybe looking at pictures of it, does this kind of course favor your game or is there any golfer you can think of whose game it might be advantageous to this course?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Unfortunately I haven't seen any pictures of it. But I think looking at the length of it I would think any course this length - obviously suits the longer hitters. Tiger being pretty much the favorite again for his length. He's hitting it 40 yards past me, so it makes quite a difference for him. But at the end of the day you have still got to hit the fairways and greens and make the putts. It could be anybody that could win it.

Q. You alluded to a lot of work on the mental side of your game. What kind of work have you been doing that way?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, it's hard to say. It's really between me and the psychologist I have been working with, my wife Tracy has also helped me a lot on the mental side. I don't know, it's hard to say. You just mature a little bit more and start thinking a little bit clearer. It is mainly trying to stay in a zone and not really let anything distract you. That's what I have really been working on. Just to forget what is happening and look forward to what is coming up.

Q. What do you think it will be like coming down Sunday afternoon with you and your friend Ernie Els?

RETIEF GOOSEN: That would be nice. Ernie has been playing very good golf as well. And two-time U.S. Open champion, he knows exactly what it is all about. It would be a great experience if it's the two of us coming up in the last group on Sunday.

Q. After what happened yesterday have the other golfers talked about Tiger Woods if he's in the hunt, does it get discouraging and anything that you can do to change on a Sunday when he's around?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Nothing that you can change about his game, but probably scream on his backswing or something like that, but I -- you know, it's really difficult. You have got to just try and play our own game. You can't hit 350 yards, so it's difficult to really not focus on what he's doing, and I think yesterday I managed that pretty well. I just know myself, I didn't play well enough to really threaten him at all. It doesn't matter where he tees it up. He's going to be the guy to beat.

Q. How has your philosophy changed after winning the Open in terms of being able to perhaps focus on majors and travel to the United States and try to get a balance between playing both Tours?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I have sort of been playing both Tours the last two years. I maybe played maybe 10 events on the U.S. tour but I haven't done any good. I think it is just now getting a little bit more used to the travelling and knowing the courses I like and the courses I don't. Now I feel like I have got a bit more of a routine going. I feel a little bit more comfortable going into every week.

Q. Last year we heard much talk about duels between Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia; that would be something to look forward to. Now the way you have played lately there's discussions about you and Tiger going head-to-head. Does that put pressure on you? Do you welcome that challenge? How do you feel about that comparison?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I enjoyed that. It's something we all work for. Thinking one day you can play against the great players in the world, and Sergio's really keen on trying to beat Tiger and I am keen on trying to beat Tiger. It's something you work for and practice for - if you do not try and beat the best players in the world then you might as well not practice and just hang out on a course every week. That's what we work for to try and win tournaments.

Q. Now you have got a chance to reflect on it a little bit, anything different about finishing second in a tournament with Tiger; does it feel less of a defeat?

RETIEF GOOSEN: To finish second is better than third. You go out there and try and finish the best you can, even if it's trying to finish 19th instead of 20th. It is sort of a little goal you put on yourself. If you have got four holes left to play, let's see if I can birdie the last 4 holes and see where I end up, you say. Finishing second in a major obviously doesn't mean a lot. It is really the guy that wins it that really counts. I asked one of the officials yesterday, saying that okay, I finished second in the tournament, do I get the green pants? He gets the jacket. Unfortunately not. (Laughter).

Q. During the last 20 years or so The Masters has shown a lot of international players' success. U.S. Open to the opposite. Usually, it is won by Americans. You represent the opposite of course, but maybe do you have any thoughts on why these two tournaments seem to have different outcomes every year?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I think you are going to see more and more foreigners on the leaderboard. I play all over the world and it doesn't matter where you play, you have got to play really well to win a tournament. I think we saw last week that 11 out of the top 16 players were foreigners, so it really shows you how strong competition gets worldwide now. It doesn't matter where you play. You have got to really give it hell to win. It's not easy. I think the different travel and playing different courses week-in and week-out really is tuning the guys up and makes them quite strong. What I find on the U.S. tour you play courses that are very same week in and week out, it's not a big variety. While on European Tour one week you play a links course next week, you play tree-lined course, different sort of greens. And it really makes the guys tough.

CRAIG SMITH: We thank you very much for being here.



CRAIG SMITH: Players on Tour talk about spending a little cash when they make bogeys, and through the disappointment of yesterday not being able to overtake Tiger, I don't know if you watched it but you saw somebody with an incredible determination to do as best as he could, Retief birdied holes 15 and 16 and went into solo second place to take on more than $600,000.

Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts....

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