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June 14, 2005

Retief Goosen


RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to welcome Retief Goosen, the 2001 and 2004 U.S. Open champion, to the interview area.

Retief, thinking back to last year at Shinnecock, I think one of the most remarkable things for those of us who were watching was your putting performance in the last six holes in particular. Could you talk a little bit about the greens here at Pinehurst and how important you think putting might be this week?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, you've first got to get onto the greens somehow. No, the greens are in perfect condition out here, so they're going to be hard and fast. I see the greens to be quite similar to Shinnecock by the time we get to the weekend unless we get lots of rain.

They are in great shape, so putting, if you putt well this week, the ball will stay on line.

RAND JERRIS: We have 47 first time players in the field this week. As a two time U.S. Open champion what advice would you have for a player who's coming out to this championship for the first time?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, the U.S. Open is all about patience really. It's difficult to get out there and make six birdies in a row and things like that. Six pars in a row is pretty good around a course like this. I think patience is going to have a lot to do with it, very good course management. You know, the way these greens are, if you can hit in the middle of the green every hole, you'll be great. You can't go at any of the flags on most of these greens.

Q. Given that, the conditions, the setup, would the U.S. Open be probably the hardest to win out of the majors, and would the players seem to want to win that one the most, given the conditions, how tough it is?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I think generally U.S. Open, everybody sees it as being the toughest one to win and the toughest golf course to play on. Last year Shinnecock was tough. This week I think Pinehurst will be tougher than Shinnecock. I can't see that anything really below par could win this week if conditions stay the way they are now.

Q. Since you've won two majors and they both were the U.S. Open, do you consider yourself better suited to play survival golf, if you will, than low as you can go golf?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Probably, yeah. I probably see myself as I like the tougher golf courses where you have to grind out a little bit more, work hard for a par. I prefer this type of golf really to a golf course that you know you need to shoot 26 under par to win.

Q. Having won the Open twice, what is it about the Open that brings out the best in your game, and is there any particular reason? Is it because of the temperament, patience you have to have in the U.S. Open?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah. I'm not really sure why I'm doing so well in the U.S. Open. I would like to do well in the other majors, too, but maybe it is the way I've worked on the mental side of the game, to be a bit more patient and focus a little bit more on certain parts of the game around the golf course. Maybe, yeah, it is suiting my game a little bit more, these type of golf courses, than certain other golf courses.

Q. Do you think tournaments like the U.S. Open makes it a little easier for the top players? Obviously if you're playing a regular Tour event and you're just an average player you feel like you have a chance of winning. But coming into a course like this there's only 10 or 15 guys in the field that have a realistic chance of winning. Do you feel it's because of the U.S. Open setup, not easier, but is there more likelihood of those top few players eventually being the winner?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, any of the guys teeing it up this week can win this event. They can all play very good golf. Really this week your game needs to be 100 percent, make the right putts at the right time. But these type of golf courses just seem to you know, the better players just seem to come to the top come the weekend. Saturday, Sunday, they creep their way up. You'll probably have somebody the first couple of rounds leading that nobody has heard of, and then on the weekend the better players just seem to rise to the top.

Q. It seems to me the key for your performance last year was your exceptional putting down the stretch. Could you talk a little bit about the distinction between the greens at Shinnecock versus the greens here at Pinehurst and what your focus was while you were making those putts?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, putting is very much the key to any golf tournament. Like Sergio last week, he was No. 1 in putting and he won the tournament. I know all the tournaments I've won, I've putted very well. You drive the ball well, you keep it in play and you make the putts on the greens, and then you're going to have a chance to win.

I don't know, I just seemed to putt maybe a little bit better on tougher greens. I seem to have a really good feel for very fast putting surface than a really slow surface. I enjoy putting more on a very quick surface and just seem to read the greens better that way.

Q. Is there anything specific difference from last year to this year on the greens?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, the greens I think are quite similar, or they will become quite similar once they start drying out a lot more. At the moment there's still a little bit of moisture in them, but they're getting rock hard. There was a couple of holes yesterday that I hit a couple of short irons in, like No. 2 yesterday, I hit a wedge into the green and couldn't stop it on the green. In '99 I hit a driver, 3 iron into No. 2, and yesterday was a driver and a wedge. Obviously the weather was a lot different the first couple of rounds in '99.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about the shaved areas when you do miss a shot and your options for what you can hit to the greens? I heard that there were some inconsistencies and that may limit your options.

RETIEF GOOSEN: These shaved areas are going to come into play hitting good shots. You're going to hit a lot of good shots that's going to end up ten yards away from the green. Unfortunately the winter wasn't all that great to some of the areas, and some of the banks aren't quite as good as they would like to be. They are very inconsistent. Some have a lot of grass, some don't. It's going to be tricky to judge what type of shot you want to play up these banks. Like No. 4, the par 5, if you hit it over the green, it's pretty much just sand. There's hardly any grass there. There you have to bump and run it through the sand. Some holes there's a lot of grass.

That's the thing about this golf course is the runoff areas and the trickiness of the slopes around the greens.

Q. The toughest course you've ever played from say 30 yards in?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes, I think these greens are probably the smallest greens we'll play in any U.S. Open. Size wise they might look like they're reasonably big, but they're definitely some of the smallest and most difficult greens to hit from any distance.

Q. What was your impression of the game of golf in Africa? As an African, how do you intend to encourage African players to enter the PGA TOUR?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Everybody has to pretty much qualify to get into these events. I mean, there was times that I went through pre qualifying for these events. Really you've just got to come and enter. Pretty much anybody can enter for the U.S. Open, the same as the British Open, and try and qualify that way to get into this event.

Q. No European has won the Open in 35 years, as you might know. You were a European Tour player when you won your first one. Ernie, same thing, when he won his first one. Is there any reason for a European not to win? Is it high rough?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I think there's a pretty good chance of a European now in the future winning one. I think the guys are playing a lot better and it's showing in the Ryder Cup. They definitely have the spirit and the encouragement to play well. Why they haven't won in 35 years, I don't know. I won't say it's because of the golf courses. I mean, these guys can play, so I'm not quite sure of the reason why they haven't.

Q. When Phil Mickelson was in before he said that there's a potential that all the 18 greens could wind up like No. 7 at Shinnecock. If that happens, is that okay with you?

RETIEF GOOSEN: (Smiling) There is a chance that there's going to be a few greens this week that we're going to have a problem on if they're not careful with their pin placings. I won't say I'm looking forward to that, but like I said, it makes the better players just rise to the top a little bit more often than if it's easy.

Q. You're the defending champion of The Open, you come in here, it's kind of a sparse turnout. Do you feel in any way underappreciated as a golfer and what you've done in the game?

RETIEF GOOSEN: There's times that I feel that, yes, and there's times that I feel like, yeah, you've won a couple of U.S. Opens and there's not a picture of you anywhere or nothing has been mentioned or anything like that, and you feel like, well, in a way it makes you more determined to try and win another one and see what happens next time you come back, if there's a picture somewhere.

I can go to the practice tee now and work on my game and try and play well this week and enjoy it. It's always nice coming back as the defending champion, and I'm looking forward to the week. Hopefully come the weekend, I'll have a chance.

Q. How much of that is do you think maybe your personality, your style of game is maybe more understated than this flying under the radar thing has probably won you the U.S. Open a couple of times. Is that a product of your personality, your style of play?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I don't know what the guys want me to do. Do they want me to do handstands when I make a putt and all that kind of stuff? I don't know why media or certain players won't be interested. Maybe that's just the way it is. You know, I go out there and try and win a tournament and try and play my best and see if I can win. If I win a tournament, then the media or whoever is not interested, then what can I do about it?

Q. On most courses there's a stretch of holes where you need to birdie or maintain your level par in order to win the championship. Where do you see that in this golf course?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, there's a couple of holes you've got half a chance of making a couple of birdies. 3 and 4, I think, those are two holes that you feel like No. 3 is only a 5 iron off the tee and a wedge into the green, and 4 you can reach in two.

From there on, the course gets tough. I think the par 3s are key. The par 3s are already tough. I think if you par all of them, you've got a pretty good chance. I would say probably the easiest green on the whole golf course is No. 17. It's the only green on the course that the actual sides of the green are raised, where the rest of the course the sides of the greens are sloping away. It's probably the easiest green on the course to hit.

Q. Given the fact that you've done this twice, does it get easier for you to prepare and do you feel better about yourself going into this championship than you did, perhaps, last year or at Southern Hills?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I wouldn't say it's easier to prepare, but mentally wise, confidence wise, you feel like you know you can do it, so you have a bit more confidence in yourself and your abilities around the golf course and what you can do.

But preparing I won't say is any easier. Personally I don't think I'm playing as well as I would like to play, but I actually hit the ball not too bad last week, just didn't putt well enough. I didn't make anything on the greens. This week if I can just start making a few putts, I know I can do well.

Q. Can you rate Pinehurst versus Congressional or Muirfield Village or the courses that have led up to here? I've just heard from some of the Aussie guys who haven't played here before that they were surprised this wasn't quite what they expect since it was rated so highly?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I don't think there's any golf course we play all year round that's anything like this. I think St. Andrews is probably as close as you can come to this with some of the runoff areas. Yeah, this is not a golf course on Tour that you can actually go and play to prepare for this week, so I think for everybody it's fairly new.

Q. Do you think Congressional and Muirfield Village are better courses than this one?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, this course is different from any other golf course, so that makes it unique in a way. Some players might like it and some players don't. I didn't like St. Andrews the first time I played it, now I love it because I just learned how to play it. Same with this course; I think if you just know where and where not to go and all that kind of stuff, you can really sort of come to love it a little bit more, but I think most players will be pretty shocked what they see this week and not really looking forward to it.

RAND JERRIS: Retief, thanks very much for your time this afternoon and we wish you luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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