April 8, 2003
LARRY PUGH: I would like to welcome Retief Goosen. Retief was runner-up of our tournament last year, included a tournament record tying 19 birdies in the first three rounds. And as you know, Retief is winner of the U.S. Open.
Retief, welcome. I'll open up to any questions that the ladies and gentlemen may have.
Q. We were hearing a lot of extremes in club selection on 18 today, just in the practice round. What did you hit into 18? And once the tournament starts and it stays this wet, how tough is that hole going to be?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I haven't played the course yet. But last year it was just this wet. So I remember hitting anything from a 4-iron to 6-iron into 18 last year. So I would imagine today would probably have been the same situation. The ball is not rolling anyway, and the air is so heavy and cold, the ball is just not going anywhere, so I can think that today, 18 probably could be driver and a 3-wood or 2-iron.
Q. And this was asked of Tiger: The course conditions haven't really gotten the real firm and fast conditions so far in these two years with the longer course, are you anxious to get play it when it is dry and firm? And will that make it play any different?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, when it's soft obviously you are going to hit longer irons into the greens, but the greens will be a lot softer. So you can stop it. And when it's going to be firm you might be hitting shorter irons into the greens. So we would like to see it hard and fast at some stage, but there's nothing you can do about the weather. And I think the course will really play its best once we get that weather. And the changes that they have made really I think is for that type of weather.
Q. Two years in a row coming into this thing you've played pretty well. How do you feel about the way things are going and you played last week and defending your title?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I am looking forward to the week. I feel like I'm driving the ball a lot better than I did last year. My iron play is not quite up to standard yet. And putting is getting there, hopefully. I've got some good memories of this last year and hopefully they can help me through this week.
Q. Did you learn anything playing in the last group on the last day that you can put in your pocket and bank on as a learning experience or what?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it was a great experience, obviously, playing with Tiger. And the biggest thing really is to try and block out the crowds and really focus on your own game and forget about what's going on around you, aren't the whole situation. But I learned quite a bit. And last year I hit a couple of bad iron shots early on in the round that cost me. And I really fell behind too far early on.
Q. Can you tell us about the actual experience of playing with Tiger at maximum pressure like that. And did it give you any insight into why he is such a phenomenon? Any fresh look at him, did it give you?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I think Tiger is very much what Jack Nicklaus was. He's able to really block out everything that's going on around him. And his focusing and concentration is so good that he can calm himself out there under these situations very easily. And while other players might think of what's going on and not really be focusing on their game and then really adding pressure on themselves.
Q. Do you think that that sort of remoteness about him in terms of competitiveness for himself, do you think that there's any way you can get at him at all?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, we're just going to have to hope we catch him on an off week when he's not playing too well. That's about it, I think. Obviously he had a bit of a long layoff and came out playing really well and he's now sort of not playing at his best, like he says, but this week sort of gets him fired up.
And he hits the ball a long way and that's an advantage around here. Right now the course is playing so long and the ball is not rolling anywhere. So he's got that advantage again.
Q. Given that you won a U.S. Open as your first Major, given the changes to this course, has this become the hardest Major to win?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it's not really the course that it was a few years ago. It was all more putting contest really. It's really become an all-around-game golf course now that you need to have every part of your game in shape. In the past, guys that were never really straight drivers really won around here. But now with the holes being lengthened, a lot of holes being narrowed, you really have to drive the ball really well around here now.
Q. Players probably won't have to come face-to-face with any of the people who are planning to protest this club's membership policies, but is there any way that you can already say that the controversy has had an effect on this tournament from a player's perspective?
RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I don't think so. It's been good advertising for the event, you know.
(Laughter.) I think, yeah, it's not really something any of the players would like to get involved in. At the end of the day, it's up to the members here and what they want to do. It's their club and it's their choice. There's a lot of other clubs like this around the country, I'm sure, that is probably in the same boat, but we just want one week a year to play the golf tournament and then we're out of here, so we really have no say in the situation.
Q. As a general principle would you have any feeling either way, I mean if you were in control of a certain situation?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, it's not really for me to comment. I'm sure there's -- I know in the U.K. there's clubs that's all ladies, you know, so there's no men allowed. So I'm sure that there might be the same situation around here. So it's their choice to have it that way.
Q. You say you haven't played the course yet. It's supposed to rain this afternoon. I guess you didn't get on yesterday. Is that at all an issue for you? In terms of preparation? How comfortable are you?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yesterday I wasn't planning on playing anyway, but today I thought I would just come and hit some balls because it's raining out there now. They're expecting a lot of rain this afternoon. So I thought it was best if I wait until tomorrow and get my round in tomorrow morning.
Q. Is that a comfortable situation?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I think so. I think that I've played the course now a few times. There's only maybe one or two holes that's been changed. So I don't think playing too many practice rounds is going to benefit me really around here. And I know the course pretty well.
Q. Jos and Ernie have talked a lot about trying to play the one shot at a time and the one hole at a time and not keeping one eye on the flag stick and one eye on Tiger.
It sounds like that should be an easy thing to do, and yet it seems like every year here guys have a very hard time not getting sucked in to trying to catch him or match him shot for shot. Did that happen to you at all last year?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I felt pretty confident going into the last round. Like I said, in the first five holes I was two over par, three over par, really, and he was one or 2-under. So I was already five behind. So it was tough then to really make up shots on the back nine around here, and especially the way the course was playing.
So you can't just not block out what he's doing. I mean, you want to know what's going on around the course. So coming down the last few holes I saw the other guys making mistakes and really I was just sort of trying to fire in for second place. I still felt like I had a chance of catching him going down 15 when he laid up and I thought if I can make eagle and a couple of birdies coming in, you know, 18th, the way it was playing, anything can happen. But it just didn't happen that way.
Q. I don't know how well you know Phil Mickelson, but feel free to charge us with being guilty, but do we sometimes in the media, we do sometimes focus too much on what Phil hasn't done and not enough on what he has done.
RETIEF GOOSEN: I mean Phil has been a great player for such a long time. And he's still pretty young. He's not a veteran or anything like that. And other players like Mark O'Meara has been a great player and then he suddenly came through and won all the Majors. And so I'm sure it's going to happen for Phil at some stage. He's far too much of a good player not to win a Major.
Q. And one more about you, and this tournament. At whatever point in your career when you may have sat back and thought about what Majors you might win or how, what Majors might suit your game better or anything, did you think you would win a U.S. Open first? And where did this rank on that consideration? Maybe this tournament?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I always felt like the British Open was one that I probably had a chance of winning first. And then probably over here. But it was nice to win the U.S. Open early. It was a tough course. It wasn't playing as long as Augusta is playing now, because of the dry, hot conditions there, so you were able to hit a lot of irons or 3-woods off the tee around that week. But it all comes down to putting at the end of the day. If you really putt well you can hit a couple of bad shots and still get away with an up-and-down.
But the way the course is playing now, you need every part of your game to be pretty good.
LARRY PUGH: Retief, thank you for being with us and good luck this week.
RETIEF GOOSEN: Thank you.
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