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June 11, 2002

Retief Goosen


RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to be joined by 2001 United States Open Champion Retief Goosen. This is Retief's fifth appearance in the U.S. Open. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to take this time with us for a few moments.

Maybe you could start off by telling us what it's meant to you to be the United States open Champion the past year, be introduced that way every time you step up to the first tee.

RETIEF GOOSEN: I think after I won the U.S. Open, you still didn't believe you won it until the next time you actually teed it up in a tournament and you get introduced as the U.S. Open champion. Then it sort of really sinks in that you're going to be called that now for the next year.

It's been a great honor to be the United States Open Champion. I've really enjoyed it over the last year. It's been a great experience. It's lifted my game up pretty well for ten months after that, and I'm still going to enjoy it this week. I'm still going to be introduced that until Sunday. I'm really looking forward to this week, as well.

RAND JERRIS: Give us your thoughts on the differences between this golf course and Southern Hills where you played last year, and how your game fits in with this course.

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, this course is a lot tougher than Southern Hills. Southern Hills was tough, but I think this course is probably going to be the toughest test we are going to see in U.S. Open history.

I like the course. It's all out there in front of you. You can pretty much see everything. Here and there you might have a bit of a blind shot but you know you've got to hit it in the fairways and get it onto the green. It doesn't matter who you are. If you're going to hit it in the rough, you're not going to be able to get it on the green. It's a very fair test and whoever wins this week knows he's played great golf.

Q. What makes this the toughest U.S. Open test that you are likely to see?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I think it's mainly in the rough, I think. You know, sometimes in the past, if you hit it just off the rough you might not be able to get onto the green and you might hit it 20 yards wide of the fairway and get it onto the green from there. That's not the case this time. It doesn't matter where the spectators are going to walk. The rough is two feet long; you won't have much of a chance.

Here and there you might catch a bit of a good lie in the rough, but I think also the length of it, when you miss the fairways, you've still got a 5-iron or so into the green and coming out of this rough you've just got no chance. You can't run it up onto the greens. Just about every hole, the fairway stops 20, 30 yards short of the green, so you can't run anything in there.

Q. Retief, do you feel any extra pressure to repeat as U.S. Open champion this year?

RETIEF GOOSEN: There will probably be that little bit of added pressure. I think I'm really keen and going to be determined out there to try and do my best and see if I can hang onto the title. It's going to be a tough one. But they are all tough to win.

But I've learned a lot from last year and I know that I can play under this sort of pressure and I can handle the conditions. I'm really looking forward to a good week.

Q. Are you having to hit driver because of the length or are you playing back with some 3-woods more often because you have to make sure that you get it in the fairway so far, through practice?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, for me it's pretty much driver on every hole. Here and there I might hit a 3-wood. Maybe No. 1 you can hit a 2-iron off the tee when it's downwind. But in general, I would say out of the 14 driving holes, 10 of them are drivers. I don't think you want to leave yourself too long second shots into the greens, as well. It's just going to become more difficult if you leave yourself a 5-iron instead of an 8-iron or 7-iron.

Q. Davis Love III and Nick Price both recently talked about how difficult it is to win a major in the era of Tiger Woods. Can you just talk about, is that something that enters your mind at all, that you've done that in an era that he has won six out of the last ten majors; do you think about that at all?

RETIEF GOOSEN: It doesn't matter what tournament you play in. If Tiger is teeing it up, he's going to be the guy to beat. I was lucky last year, he was not on top of his game at Tulsa. He never really got anything going, so he was never really in the picture.

But this week, he's going to be the guy to watch out for. The course I think suits him perfectly with his length and he hits it very straight off the tee.

It's going to be a good week. I don't think this week we'll see some unknown name come and win it. I think come Sunday, you'll have the top guys battling out for it.

Q. What's the most significant thing that's happened since you won the Open last year, either on the course, off the course, your life in general?

RETIEF GOOSEN: It's been very busy off course. I've done quite a few interviews since then. Especially back in South Africa, it's been very busy. It's been a great experience. I've enjoyed every moment of it. It's been good fun. It was tiring at times, but that comes with winning the U.S. Open.

I wouldn't mind winning another one and going through that all again.

Q. Obviously there's a lot of hoopla for Tiger and some other players. Do you feel like defending champion here this week?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes, I do. I know I have the trophy in my house for a year and I've looked at it every time. Yeah, I feel like a defending champion. The last two practice rounds I've had, it's been great. People are recognizing me a lot more than they did in the past. I've probably run out of two sharp eyes out there on the course, as well, doing autographs. It's been a great couple of days so far.

Q. Did you prepare any differently this year than last year?

RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I didn't. I played last week in the Buick just to try and sharpen up my game a little bit. I've not been playing so well over the last month and a half, two months. I felt like I needed to play a little bit and work on a few things.

It's slowly coming along. I'm still not hitting the ball as well as I would like to, but hopefully come Thursday when I start focusing properly, things will fall together.

Q. What can you bring from the final round of Masters here this week that will help you?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I know the last round of Masters, I didn't play to my best. I know I wasn't hitting my irons all that well. In the first few holes I hit myself in sort of impossible positions to even 2-putt from. I kept hanging in there and I knew it was pretty much all over for me at one stage.

I kept fighting and trying to play for second and it was nice to come out in second place. You never know what can happen down the stretch at Augusta, but I think Tiger just had a shot in the pot at the end.

Q. Did that teach you anything about going up against him?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I think playing with Tiger is obviously quite difficult, with the crowds and things like that. I've learned pretty well to block things out like that now. I enjoy playing with Tiger.

Q. Do you ever wonder how your year might have gone had you not defeated Mark Brooks in the playoffs; do you think things would have gone differently? You went on a real tear.

RETIEF GOOSEN: I don't know. I'm here now. I won that event and things have gone great for me. It might have been the same even though I might not have won it, I might have played the same sort of golf.

It's difficult to tell. You can never tell what happens in the future.

Q. Do you think that you played too much golf the last year?

RETIEF GOOSEN: I might have played a bit too much. But in general, you know, when you play well, it's easy to play a lot of golf. Things seem so easy. You hit the ball well and things just flow. Sometimes it's a lot easier to play a lot of golf when you're playing well. It's when you start playing bad that it can get tiring and you feel like you've been on the range the whole day. And it's hard work out on the golf course.

I played a lot but I enjoyed it. I'm taking a little bit more time off after this week and try and pace myself a little bit to the end of the year.

RAND JERRIS: In the last few years South Africa has had some great champions with Ernie Els and yourself. Can you tell us what your victory meant to the people of South Africa different from what Ernie's may have meant.

RETIEF GOOSEN: It really lifted the guys in South Africa quite a bit. They have been struggling quite a bit. I didn't go straight back after I won, so the first time I went back was in December. The reaction, what my parents told me and my brothers, they said it was unbelievable. I missed out a little bit on that, not going back there straightaway. But I spoke to Nelson Mandela and the President, Thabo Mbeki. They all congratulated me and invited me over for dinners and things like that.

I think it's been good for golf in South Africa and hopefully it will lift the game more there. Struggling a little bit with tournaments out there at the moment, sponsorships and things like that. But there's a lot of good players coming up.

RAND JERRIS: All of us at the USGA are proud that the tournament has come to a public golf course this year. Is there a movement similar in South Africa.

RETIEF GOOSEN: There's a few public courses. I haven't played any of them, but if they are as good as this one, I'll play them every day. It's a great golf course. I hope the normal guys don't play it like this all the time. They probably need six dozen balls to get around 18 holes. It's a great test. In South Africa we do have a few good public golf courses but probably not enough.

Q. Phil Mickelson was talking about how he likes competing against Tiger and beating the best player, perhaps, of all time. Best case scenario: Would you like to see it come down to you and Tiger, again?

RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I think every player in the field would like to see that happen. That's what we all work for is to try and beat the best players and work our way up there and see if we can beat him. You don't know if you can beat him until you get into the situation and go up against him.

Yeah, it will probably be ideal, yeah, to be there on Sunday playing against him and trying to beat him. That's what it's all about.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much for your time and we wish you all of the luck in your title defense.


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