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May 10, 2005

Retief Goosen


TODD BUDNICK: We welcome Retief Goosen to the 2005 EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Retief, you're making your first stop in Dallas, at a Dallas tournament. Talk about first what brought you here this week to play the Byron Nelson.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, normally this week I have a week off in Europe, and then I play the week before the PGA and the week after, but this year it's just worked out that I've had two weeks off now, the last two weeks in South Africa, so I was sort of ready to get playing again. I always knew this was a great event to play, and I was going to play Colonial next week, as well, but decided not to, so I'm going back to London after this week.

TODD BUDNICK: Mr. Nelson actually showed up to help pick you up yesterday.

RETIEF GOOSEN: That's right. When I got into the terminal, he's wife was just standing there, and I thought, "Well, it's nice of her to greet me there." And then we walked up to the car, and she said, "I've got somebody waiting in the car for you," and I thought maybe it's my caddie Colin or something, and it was Mr. Nelson sitting in the front seat. I was a bit surprised and it was a great way to arrive at a golf tournament.

I had a nice little chat with him from the golf course to here and just about his career and traveling in his time and things like that. So it was a nice experience.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's talk a little bit about your year on the PGA TOUR. You have three Top 5s and you're 9th on the Money List and 5th in the world. Talk about how you see your game right now.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Probably not as good as I would like to, but I've had two weeks' break now, as well, so mentally-wise I think I'm pretty fresh to get playing again. I only played three rounds of golf really in the two weeks I had off, so not much practicing. I like the course the way it's set up here. It's nice and tough, so you need to play well. That's the way I enjoy it.

Q. Do you think anyone will ever win 11 tournaments in a row like Byron did?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Obviously it's an unbelievable achievement. Vijay was almost the only guy last year that sort of had half a chance at doing it. Yeah, I don't think that will ever be broken, that record. That's one record that will, I think, stand forever.

Q. When you think of the best years of all time, some people would argue that that year for him was arguably the best of all and then some people would say Tiger maybe in 2000, he won the three majors, or Bobby Jones in 1930. Do you have any thoughts on that, or is it impossible because of the difference in eras?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, that can have an effect, the different eras. Competition now is so strong, what Vijay did last year and what Tiger did is great, but what they've done in their time, as well. I mean, equipment was different, golf courses were different, and so there was a bit more of a disadvantage they had at that time.

It's difficult to pick one, but I think they're all pretty equal.

Q. Only the third time this year all the Big Five together in one event like this. This is not a major, but does it almost have the feel of a major with all the guys that you're chasing right here in the same field and you can look them eye to eye and everything? Does that have a little bit of a major feel to it?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I'm sure that everybody's mental attitude is, yeah, it's a great event to win. If you win this event you really have a great field. But I don't think it's sort of exactly the same feel as a major event, but yeah, you feel like you have a very strong field you're playing against and you know it's going to be tough competition out there to win.

Q. Other than Byron's wife, are you getting recognized when you're in regular airports these days in the U.S.?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, regular airports. Obviously flying over from Europe to here, you do get recognized a little bit.

But obviously from Orlando down to here, I flew privately, so nobody on the plane to recognize me.

Q. Do you like it when the fans come up to you, or would you rather just be anonymous and mix in?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, it's fine if somebody recognizes me. It's great to know you're getting somewhere in the game when somebody recognizes you just in public. It's a good feeling, and if they ask for an autograph, that's fine, I don't have a problem. I don't think I'll ever have the problem that Tiger would have in public, so my life is still pretty normal.

Q. What do you know about this place? Did you pick Ernie's brain in scouting for it or anything?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I know Ernie always plays it and he tells me it's a great two golf courses. I'm playing the other course tomorrow. He told me it's a good place to come and play, but like I say, it's just never really worked out for my schedule to be here.

Q. You played this morning?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I played nine yesterday and the other nine today on this course, and then I'll play the Pro-Am on the other course tomorrow.

Q. What have you heard about the other course?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, they say it's a little bit easier, but a golf course is only easy when you play well around it. Sometimes the difficult courses you play better than the easy courses; just mentally-wise you seem to concentrate a bit more and it doesn't matter how easy or how short it is, you've still got to hit the shots and make the scores.

Q. On that front, two wins in U.S. Opens, is that sort of an extension of that thought?


Q. Grinding on every shot on a hard golf course versus an easy golf course where --

RETIEF GOOSEN: I prefer a golf course that the course is really below 12-under or something like that. I think if the wind picks up it's not going to reach 10. I think the rough is quite thick. The fairways aren't running at the moment; they're quite soft. I prefer it when it's a bit tougher, that you get rewarded for playing a hole well and not really missing a putt on an easy hole and knowing you lost a shot to the field.

I like it when the whole range of the game is important.

Q. Did you find a couple holes or a hole that stood out to you as a really tough hole in your nine holes yesterday and nine holes today?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, No. 3 is a pretty tough par 4 with the water on the right. Today it was a driver and 5-iron straight downwind, so that's a tough hole if the wind is going to turn on you or stop blowing. It's a very long hole.

Every hole is actually quite well set up. It's not a very long course, but it's a lot of little slight doglegs so you can run out quite easy on certain of the doglegs. It's well-guarded with trees at the right places.

Mr. Nelson said yesterday that he had something to do with the redesign of the course and so on, and I'm sure him and I think Crenshaw is the other player that helped redesign. They did a good job. The bunkers are well placed and the trees are well placed. It's a really good taste of golf.

Q. What do you think is a bigger asset for you, your mind on the golf course or your physical attributes?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, mind-wise, yeah, I've worked hard on that to get that right. Physical, I don't know. I'm getting old now, I suppose, so -- I'm looking forward to turning 40. Everybody seems to play well when they turn 40 (laughter), so a few more years and my best golf will be here, so I'm looking forward to that.

Q. You don't have as many wins as say Ernie or Vijay, and yet the tournaments you have won are biggies against the strongest fields on the good courses. What do you take out of your career right now? Would you like to see more wins across the board or are you happy with what you've done so far?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Obviously I'm happy with what I've done so far, winning majors and a couple of big events. But I would like to win a bit more, have a bit more, like you say, wins around the world. I think I need to really rack up the wins a little bit, as well, and not necessarily a major. I would like to add a couple more majors, that's for sure, in the next couple years.

Q. Is that what it takes do you think for people to refer to you as "The Fifth Beatle"?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I don't know. You know, really worry too much about that. I'm working on my game to improve. If I happen to go ahead of those guys, that's great. If I don't, well, I know I've tried. It's something for me to work on. Obviously you need to have a couple of really good years to get up into the No. 1 spot, so it's something I feel like if I have a good run like Vijay has had, you can get there.

Q. Do you think you're streaky like that?

RETIEF GOOSEN: You know, Kenny Perry and those guys, they all had that sort of really good run for about a year that you can really make up some ground. I feel that it's in me to play well. I'm playing a lot more consistent than I used to, but I just need to win a little bit more.

Q. Do you have any thoughts on Mr. Nelson's influence on the modern game?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Influence on the modern game?

Q. Yeah, the modern game of golf.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, in what way, influence? Sorry, I don't quite understand.

Q. Well, he's one of the greatest golfers of all time. A lot of people --

RETIEF GOOSEN: I was saying earlier to somebody that I think -- Mr. Nelson was a little bit before my time. I didn't really know about him until my late teens when I was almost really turning professional when I started hearing about him. But when I grew up it was more Faldo, Nicklaus and Ballesteros and those sort of guys were my sort of idols. Mr. Nelson, I didn't know really much about what he achieved in his career until really when I got into Europe.

Q. You play all over the world, Ernie plays all over the world and other guys do. Do you prefer it when you guys are all here together and one of you guys may win and beat the others, or when Ernie wins by 13 and no one else is there or when you win in Europe and no one else is there? Do you prefer it this way or does it make a difference?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, me and Ernie sort of say that we need to support a little bit some of the tournaments outside America. In a way we would like to see these other three guys maybe come over to Europe and make up a great field over there, all five of the Top 5 players playing in a tournament somewhere in Europe or even in China just to really boost the game of golf all the way around the world.

But the chances of that happening, I suppose, are just about nothing. But yeah, to have all five of us playing here this week sort of, I think, adds something to the tournament. But yeah, we would like to beat each other and see -- come Sunday, it would be great if all five of us are up there fighting for the title.

Q. Would a win here for one of the Five mean a little bit more than say a win maybe by yourself in Europe or somewhere else?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I would definitely think it would, yes.

Q. You hear so much about what it's like in the U.S. Open and tournaments of that ilk the last day in contention. What's your coping mechanism for the pressure that comes with that when every shot could be potentially a killer?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, it's the same for every guy that's up there in a major in the last round.

Q. Yeah, but you've handled it. Most of them, they don't all handle it.

RETIEF GOOSEN: It's difficult. You've just got to go out there and trust it. You've done so well for three days, and normally when you're up there, come Sunday, you have a pretty good feel for the course. So things sort of in a way happen naturally. It's just you've got to really work your way around the course, map your way around the course properly and keep double bogeys off the card. Sometimes you play for a bogey, not necessarily a par, but you try and avoid the doubles.

It's all really, in a major, about saving shots the last day. It's rare that somebody is going to shoot a 65 to win, so you've got to grind your way out, and level par could be a great score to win the tournament. It's all about really mapping your way around the course and keeping big numbers off the card.

Q. What's the most nervous you've been, Southern Hills or Shinnecock?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, Southern Hills I think I was a lot more nervous, I think. Shinnecock I was nervous, too, but in a way I just handled the pressure a lot better. I was a bit more used to it. You know what's going through your mind and through your body. Southern Hills I was inexperienced and obviously nervous. But I played well and I've learned a lot from that, and that's helped me in the future.

Q. Do you think there was a specific time at Shinnecock where you really felt it?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, you feel it all the way around really, from the first hole onwards. It's always there on every shot. I won't say that there was any real specific shot that stands out more than other ones. I think the pressure putt I know I had was on 17, the par putt. On TV it looked short and you don't really know how quick and how fast that putt was. If I missed it, it possibly would have rolled as far past as what Mickelson's putt went past. But once I made that putt I felt like I sort of had it in the bag.

On the 18th tee shot I was nervous, but I was so all pumped up and psyched that you sort of -- by then I was sort of used to it, and if you just play under that sort of conditions.

Q. A local question, have you ever been here before? Have you ever been to Dallas?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, first time here. Houston was the only other place I've been, so first time here. I haven't really even left the hotel grounds, so I've got no idea what's around here.

Q. What's the biggest difference in your game between '99 and here? '99 you missed the cut at Pinehurst, short week. You won two --

RETIEF GOOSEN: I was very inexperienced then and didn't really know what I can do. But this time now I know what I can do.

Q. That would seem like a good course for you; creativity involved around the greens and chipping areas around greens?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it's tough around the greens there. You don't really know what the conditions are going to be like, but yeah, chipping around the greens are going to be tough there. You're going to have a lot of options and things like that you're going to have to think about.

Q. Tom Kite said recently that one of the great misnomers about the U.S. Open is you have to be a great ball striker. No one hits all the greens, so it really comes down to a test of short game as much as anything. Do you agree with that? I don't think you can slap it around.

RETIEF GOOSEN: I think driving is probably more important than the iron play now. I think if you can drive it on the fairway and give yourself a chance, then obviously -- I think the guy that wins gets it up-and-down to save shots. It's all about saving shots at a major championship. You know, there's always going to be always somebody that shoots low in the first couple of rounds, but then tougher pin positions and everything else adds up.

It's all about really good scrambling around a major championship. Ball-striking there is very important. If you're going to keep missing every green, you're not going to get it up-and-down every time. But Pinehurst I would imagine the rough is going to be heavy, so you're going to need to drive it straight and give yourself a chance getting on the green.

Q. What was your least favorite U.S. Open setup?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I won't say there was a least favorite. I think Bethpage for some reason, I didn't enjoy it at all around there. I missed the cut there. Obviously the weather was a big factor the first couple of rounds, which made it very difficult. Maybe if the weather was different I would have seen it differently. I struggled to get any feel for the course in the first two rounds.

Q. Some guys say they spend 75 to 80 percent of their practice game on their short game. What percentage do you spend on your short game compared to driving the ball?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I would say I spend more time on the driving range practicing-wise than my short game. But I probably spend more time on my short game around the greens during a practice round than I do hitting balls. So I think I do practice more of my chip shots during practice rounds from different positions around the greens.

Q. Maybe because I don't think people appreciate because it's not an actual physical tackling kind of sport, what you guys go through, particularly in a major on Sunday. Talk about just physically the way you feel late on a Sunday afternoon after weathering what you did at Shinnecock.

RETIEF GOOSEN: It's tough to have a line. You tend to wake up a little bit earlier in the mornings than you would on a Sunday. Tee times are typically 3:00 o'clock, 3:30 in the afternoon. You've got a lot of time from when you wake up at say 8:00 o'clock in the morning until 3:00 o'clock to try and get that time and keep the golf off your mind in a way. You watch a movie or -- I play with the kids now and that kind of stuff.

It's a long day.

Q. Afterward, is it --

RETIEF GOOSEN: Afterwards, yeah, it's difficult to really celebrate. I mean, you're so drained. You know, you have a couple of glasses of champagne on the way home or something like that, but come 11:00 o'clock you want to fall over (laughter).

I think it's sort of -- the next evening is sort of the evening that you really celebrate and have a good time with your friends and sort of look back at what you've achieved.

Q. You don't have a swing coach per se, correct?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, it's been about six years or so, a bit longer, that I haven't used somebody. Probably close to seven years.

Q. Do you have a pretty good self-checklist that you go through that you know your habits and tendencies?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it's all about feel of the game for me and how I feel over the ball. What happens in a swing, I don't know, but it's all about me really feeling comfortable and seeing the line and feeling the club on line for me going through the ball. It's not all about mechanics; for me it's all about feel.

So I go through a checklist of things and bad habits that I know that creep in. I've always had -- the last two caddies I've had have been pretty good golfers themselves so they know the basics of the game, and for me it's about the basics.

Q. So you stay out there until it feels right basically?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I try and work on getting a good feel. When I feel good over the ball, I know I can hit it as hard as I want and I know it's going to go straight. When you're not feeling all that good, you know, it's difficult to go after the ball. That's when you struggle a little bit.

Q. Do you watch video of yourself? Do you ever set up a camera?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I haven't actually looked at my swing on a camera now for probably three years, I think.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much for your time today.

End of FastScripts.

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