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April 10, 2005

Retief Goosen

Q. It is my pleasure to introduce two time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen. I imagine no matter how many times you hear that it still sounds great. And there's a whole room full of people back here in Pinehurst just waiting to see you, hear you, and welcome you back in June as defending champion.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Thank you very much. It's nice to be in talking to everybody. It's been a great year as the U.S. Open champion so far.

Q. When we look back at last year, the putter, 11 putts in the last nine holes. How did you do that?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I think you have to do that. Pretty much whoever wins the tournament at the end of the week is the guy that putted probably the best. Phil Mickelson, when he won the Masters, he putted really well coming down the stretch, holed a few good putts. And that's how you win the Majors. So I think it comes down to the guys making the right putts at the right time.

Q. The course got more difficult with each day. Thursday and Friday, a little easy, Saturday, Sunday it got more difficult. You played better each day that it got more difficult. And you know what, I think I've seen that from you. Would that be a characteristic that I could say is true?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I like the golf courses really tough. The more you have to start grinding it out the better. The golf course obviously at Shinnecock changed. From Friday to the weekend, it changed so much it was unbelievable. Thursday, Friday, with the rain we had, it was still nice. And then suddenly Saturday afternoon the golf course was bone dry. It was unbelievable how much it dried out over the weekend.

Q. Trying to think back of some of your best shots. I know there were some great putt saves for par. There was a great recovery shot on the par-5 coming home. Which out of those couple or another, do you think were some of your notables?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, every hole on that course is a notable hole. I think the holes that I played really well during the week is like hole number 10. That was like the toughest hole of the week. Although it's pretty much the shortest hole of the week on the golf course. I would say 7, the par-3, which gave everybody a hard time I played really well. I hit the green three out of four times and made four pars. So I think on holes like that I've really caught up some shots on the field.

Q. If you don't win in 2001, are you mentally tough enough to win at Shinnecock?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I think so. Obviously since 2001 I played well worldwide. Who knows what it would have been like if I didn't win the U.S. Open, but you know, my life has gone down this way now and I've done pretty well and I won a few events. Now when I tee it up I know I can win in every tournament I play in.

Q. I wanted to talk about that one. I read that a couple places and it was a closing line in one of the books from this past U.S. Open and another one, "What did you learn about your self?" And you said, "I learned I can really beat them all."

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, that's true. Even though I think if I didn't win in 2001, I think I would have known that I could do it. I mean, I got that far, but it just didn't happen at the end. But I think it would have been a good confidence boost anyway, even if I didn't win it. But, yeah, I think now when I tee it up, I feel like I can pretty much, when I'm on top of my game, I can beat anybody out there in the field. And I think there's a lot of players that feel that. We all know when you're on top of your game you can win. But there's a little margin, I think, you know, that it's just that little edge inside that you know that you can beat them.

Q. So far I know you want to add some more Majors, but so far the U.S. Open might have been the least likely of yours because you were playing on the European Tour, that sort of has defined your golf career, as of this time anyway.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, definitely. I enjoy going back to Europe playing there as well. But being out here now people recognize me a lot more since last year, since the U.S. Open. It's a great feeling. It feels like you sort of belong out here now. And people know who you are. It's wonderful when I tee it up now and you get the reaction from the crowds.

Q. I'm going to throw out some numbers for you. Only five golfers have won more than two U.S. Opens. And I'm just wondering what you were dreaming about way back when, when you won the home, native amateur, that you won on the European Tour, and now here you are, one more and you're in a class of just six people. Nicklaus, among them.

RETIEF GOOSEN: That's true, yeah. I would like to add another one. You're just going into that next bracket. There's a lot of players that's won one and two Majors, but three, as you say, it's a little bit different. I would like to add another one, hopefully a different one this time. I always felt like the British Open is something that I probably would have won first before I won anything else. I don't know, for some reason I liked the links courses and being in Europe it just felt like I had a better chance. But winning a U.S. Open twice is wonderful and it's a great championship to win.

Q. You've got yourself among those who were at the elite status on your Tour. Who keeps you grounded, Retief? I mean, you know, when you get home, the wife, or call home to mom, how do you get grounded when things are just whirling?

RETIEF GOOSEN: During a Major week it's, you know, you're on the edge the whole time. You're nervous, you tend to wake up a little bit earlier in the mornings than you normally do. And, you know, the tee times are at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, so you got so much time to kill during the day. But I got a good wife, she keeps me calm and she let's me do my thing before the round. And now with the two kids, you know, you got enough play time before you go and play.

Q. The one thing I have always noticed is some people, Payne Stewart among them have said, "After I won the U.S. Open, my game really went down the hill because I tried to live up to being a U.S. Open champion." Your game has gone just the opposite. You win the first one and you get better and you get better and you get better.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, like I said earlier, who knows if I didn't win what would have happened. I think it's probably happened a little bit with Todd Hamilton and a few other players that, when they won that first Major, everyone expects so much all of a sudden. And, yeah, it adds pressure to you. I remember winning the first time, you know, suddenly everybody expects, well, okay, now he should win every time he tees it up, win six tournaments. It wasn't easy. Obviously I went back to Europe, I played well, and I won a couple events and I sort of kept my confidence up. And luckily my career has gradually got better every year as I've been out here.

Q. Now I got to take you back to Pinehurst, so I'm going to trash your confidence right now. The only time I remember that you played in North Carolina was the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. I have to ask you what you remember.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I remember that it was, obviously it being a very tough course. I wasn't particularly fond of it the first time I played it. I didn't really enjoy it all the runoffs all that much as I would have liked. But now I'm in a different frame of mind now than I was then and I feel like I can hit any shot now I need to hit on championship courses like that. So I'm very much looking forward going back there this time and giving it a shot and winning it again.

Q. Did you keep any notes? I know some players have said it's not really about where you hit it, it's more about where you don't want to hit it, because you can't get up-and-down from there.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, yeah, Majors are like that. You know where the no go zones are. But when you're on a course, you really don't want to think like that. You want to think where you want to hit it and not really where you don't want to hit it. So you must know your safe place on some of the holes and where to play to. And I, like I say, I remember a lot of the holes around the course, so I know where I hit it last time and I know where I don't want to hit it there again. So I am looking forward to going back.

Q. Your travel schedule is a lot like Ernie's worldwide. In fact, you're on your way to another stop right now in another continent as we sit here in Pinehurst. What's your schedule going to be before the U.S. Open? Will you get a chance to get to Pinehurst?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, unfortunately not. I will be back in Europe playing a few events there. But I really, I'm not really somebody that likes to go to a golf course too early. If you go to a Major four, five days before the tournament, I feel like by the time the tournament comes you're sort of brain dead, you've sort of over prepared. You can over prepare, I think. And you won't be as focused as you would like. I think just two practice rounds max for me and that's it.

Q. Sometimes you can try to win too much and give the course too much credit instead of going in so confident to play your best.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, that's true. It doesn't matter what golf course you're on, you still got to hit the shots. At the end of the day you got to stand over it and hit a certain shape ball or that's it. It's just really course management, that's all what it is about a major championship is managing the course correctly.

Q. If I could, Retief, a lot of the folks sitting here at Pinehurst don't know of your growing up, your teenage story. I know you have talked about it so many times, could you share the lightning story with them one more time?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I was playing golf with my cousin and there was actually thunder in the area. And we actually all stopped play. We all went to the shelter areas. About an hour later or so everybody started going back on the course. It looked like it passed, because the thunder storms in South Africa tend to come in pretty quickly and they leave pretty quickly. We'd just teed off on the 7th hole, and I remember hitting my tee shot down the right side, so you had to sort of walk past a clump of trees to get to where the ball was. And really I was just right next to the trees when the lightning hit the trees. And that was that. So next time I woke up I was in a hospital. So, still lucky to be around.

Q. And I had read someplace where your mom said it changed you just a little bit. You used to be a devil may care guy, which in some aspects you still are, but how did it change you?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I mean, that's what she thinks. I don't know. How old was I? 16, just about 17. So I think I wouldn't say it's changed me, but I was back on the golf course about three weeks later playing golf, so as soon as I got rid of all the burn marks and I could get my shoes back on, I was out there playing again. I still got the golf clubs and the clothes of that day. And sometimes you look at it and you think, you know, you're lucky to be around. You can't make out the clothes, the clubs are all burned in places, so it's scary situation.

Q. Sometimes we need a little reminder to see how lucky we are. I mean, you've come a long way, you get a chance probably to stay in touch with some folks that you grew up with, but not too much, because you're all over the world. I don't know, do you still get a chance to be in touch with any of the folks back home?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I speak to my mom and dad and my brothers regularly, or we e-mail quite a lot. I will be spending a lot more time in South Africa as from the end of last year onwards. I actually now for the first time bought some property in South Africa. I'm starting golf course design now in July in South Africa. So I got three golf courses that I'm going to start designing down there. So I will be traveling back there a lot more than I did in the past. And so, obviously, I'll see them a lot more too.

Q. If I get the sense of reading material about you, you're pretty much of an all around sportsman.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes. Southern hemisphere sports. I'm not that clued up on the American sports yet, really. I enjoy a bit of basketball, but that's about the only sport over here that I follow a little bit.

Q. Well, you're in good country here. In North Carolina they have five teams in the NCAA championship and I would think sometimes you give that steely grin and with your strong muscular frame, we could make you a linebacker.

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I think I'm getting a bit old for that now. But I did play my rugby and cricket and tennis and you name it, in my young days. Before the golf bug really bit me. But, so I sort of really got heavily into golf from the age of 10, 11. So that's when I really started giving up all the other sports.

Q. South African Amateur, is that the one that really told you, you were good enough to keep going?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, yeah, I think that sort of told me, you know, I won everything in South African golf that you can win or amateur golf. You have gone this far, you might as well try it as a professional. So after that I was -- probably before that I decided that I'm going to give it a shot at professional golf. I turned pro and won Rookie of the Year on the South African Tour and then it took me two tries at the qualifying school on the European Tour and to get my card and the rest is history.

Q. Still going strong. I'm going to put you on the hot seat and we'll see if we can keep all this stuff and I'm just going to ask you some odds and ends. And I don't get a chance to hear you scream or yell or anything like that. But if I hear you singing, what song would it be and where would you be singing? In the car, in the shower, and who is your favorite group, that kind of stuff?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Funny enough I'm a big fan of classical music in a way. I enjoy Andre Bocelli's music. Just for what he's done as well being blind and the music he brings out. But I'm sort of a really all around person. I can be anywhere from rock music all the way to classical. It depends what sort of mood I am and where you are and what sort of friends you're around. If you have friends around for a barbecue you have sort of some more mellow music in the background. So I'm sort of an easy listener to all sorts of music.

Q. So if we come over to your house for the barbecue are you going to cook or are you going to let everybody else do the cooking and you'll be the host?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I'll be the host. I enjoy my cooking. Not so good in the kitchen though, but I'm good on the fire. So my wife's pretty good in the kitchen. But I know how to grill the meat.

Q. How about favorite golf courses? Give me two or three or four.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I think my most favorite is probably St. Andrews. There's just no other golf course like it. I remember playing my first amateur tournament in Europe there as well. I remember playing the first time I was telling myself it's the biggest piece of rubbish I've ever seen. And everybody that's played it the first time thinks the same thing. But the more you play it, the more you realize how and why it's been designed that way. Obviously I would probably put Augusta as second, my second favorite course. I think it's just sort of a holy place in golf. And then obviously the Majors, the rest of the Major championships, wherever they're playing. And the ones I won obviously are my favorite courses.

Q. Every one you win. And they say the same thing about Pinehurst No. 2. I've heard that said. The more you play it, the more you like it. And the more often you win on it, the more you're going to like it.

RETIEF GOOSEN: That's true. Yeah, the more you realize why it's been designed in a certain way, to play in a certain way, the more you start respecting it and enjoy it.

Q. I think we can probably just sign off because I probably need to ask you to take me down to the range and give me some golf lessons. Why don't you tell the folks in Pinehurst you'll see them later.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Thanks for everybody being here, I'm really looking forward to the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. It's going to be a great event and I hope to see you all there.

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