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February 6, 2013
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Retief Gosen. Retief, you're making your first start on the PGA TOUR since the PGA Championship last year.
Talk about your health status and thoughts coming into this week and then we'll have some questions.
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, it was PGA last time I played. The week after the PGA I went in for back surgery back in London with Mr. David Harrison after many things I had done through the whole of last year trying to really get what's going to be the best option.
At the end, my L3, L4 disc completely disintegrated really. I didn't really have much choice just to go for disc replacement. It was either fusion or disc replacement. I actually then, through Mr.David Harrison, which is the best disc replacement doctor in England, he did the operation and it was a big success really.
Since the day after the operation I felt a lot better already; a month after the operation I was walking around feeling very, very good. No pain. I had obviously just from where the operation occurred it was sore, but back‑wise it was great.
The disc they implanted I was made by Spinal Kinetics, American‑based company, so so far it's great. My back's been very good.
Took me about four and a half months before I started hitting my first ball back in South Africa. Middle of December is the first time I hit a ball. First couple shots it was obviously very interesting. Don't quite know what to expect. Just sort of 70‑yard shots.
I felt great. You know, a week later after I started hitting balls I started hitting drivers. Then really over Christmas and New Year I felt good and felt like maybe I should go out there and start playing.
Played my first event in South Africa which was the Volvo Champions Event. It was quite exciting. I struggled to walk the four rounds, but my back felt great. Never had any issues in my back. It was just more legs, and the muscles in my back got tired from starting hitting balls again.
Then I played Qatar Masters. I actually drove the ball nicely, but putting wasn't that good. Missed the cut there.
It's nice to be back. It's nice to be back here in America. My focus is to play a full schedule in America this year and get back into the swing of things.
Now that I feel like I can do some practicing and start hitting balls, I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.
Q. That could be the longest answer given in your life. (Laughter.)
MODERATOR: It was. We can laugh it up.
Q. As you go back to August and when you're trying things and nothing seems to be working, was there ever a point where you were worried about ever playing golf again before seeing Mr. David Harrison?
RETIEF GOOSEN: No. At that point my back was so messed up I pretty much couldn't play anymore anyway. It was impossible to go through 18 holes without getting spasms in the back and struggling to hit some shots on certain lies.
For me the decision was not easy, but in a way I just felt it could only be better. I don't think my back could get any worse. At that stage I pretty much felt like my career was over. I couldn't hit the ball anymore; I couldn't practice.
You know, Mr.Harrison really was very honest with me. He told me, With this operation your back is gonna be better. My whole back is in good state except this one disc that completely went.
So for him it was not that there was any other problems, it was just the one area. When he went in there he said, Yeah, this was completely disintegrated. He didn't really think I was still able to play. Now I'm about eight millimeters taller. I'm feeling good.
Q. Did you tell the (indiscernible) it was a disintegrated disc?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I'm sure he's been following it a little bit, because I started seeing him probably three months before the operation. Through x‑rays and stuff and a lot of decisions, it took that long to make up my mind.
Q. With all the issues you had in 2012, why did it take so long for you to make up your mind?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Everybody is scared of surgery. It's probably been a good three years that I've struggled badly with my back. I started working with a full‑time physio. That helped. Got me through playing some events pretty good and keeping the spasms out.
But it was the pain. You know, waking up at night, every time you turn around your back is sore, you can't sleep.
Then I tried some stuff that Vijay and Fred Couples had done and just didn't work for me. For me it was more something that was just really starting to dissolve in my back.
It's been great. You know, it's been six months now. I haven't taken a painkiller. My whole system feels a lot clearer and cleaner.
It's just great to be off chemicals.
Q. Couples and Vijay went to Germany. Did you do that in Germany as well?
RETIEF GOOSEN: No. I saw somebody in America in Virginia Beach.
Q. Did he have a German accent?
RETIEF GOOSEN: No.
Q. There were times during the year you were playing pretty well. Was that shocking that you could play well at times even though you had all these problems your back?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, but you're also playing golf courses that you feel comfortable on, that you know you can scramble around and you know where to play and where not to play from.
It was better when it was warmer; cold conditions I couldn't swing the club. Like this week now in my practice round in the cold weather my back is feeling good. I'm not feeling tight and like I can't make a golf swing.
For me, so far my back is just hundred times better than it's been for last four, five years.
Q. (No microphone.)
RETIEF GOOSEN: No, I've played twice before here in this event. Finished third and once missed the cut, I think. For me, my decision is to get back into playing. I want to play a full season out here this year and play as many events as I can.
Q. Just in terms of the courses and your game, how do you feel your style suits this course? What's your outlook for you this week?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I've played all the course were all the course is in great shame. Monterrey is probably the only one that the fairways are not that great.
Pebble and Spyglass are in unbelievable condition. Hopefully we won't get too much rain in the next couple of days and the greens stay a little bit on the firmer side.
I like it. I think I shot 64 here one time on Pebble and the AT&T. So I'm just really coming in looking forward to finding some form. Got some new clubs in the bag from TaylorMade this week as well.
First few events just finding my stride.
Q. Curious could you speak to young players on tour and maybe how much more ready they are to win when they right come out on tour than 15 years ago? Seems like players in their early 20s now are more advanced. How do you see that's evolved over the years?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, yes, definitely the players now from a young age set their minds on becoming professionals. Twenty whatever years ago when I first probably got on the TOUR, people were thinking of going to study first, get a degree. You had to do military service and all those kind of things first.
So it wasn't a thing on your mind straightaway of going professional. There was a lot of good amateurs when I was an amateur that went the business route and not the golf route. But now guys from a very young age they train to turn professional.
But you still need to be a great amateur. You can turn professional, but if you haven't played and won as an amateur, I don't think you'll make it out here on the regular TOUR, on the professional tour.
For me, I won a lot amateur tournaments before I turned pro. You need to get the experience of winning.
Q. What is the disc made of?
RETIEF GOOSEN: It's titanium with like a rubber type middle. So it reacts and moves like a normal disc.
Q. You said the last three years it's been pretty tough. How would you look at coming into this year versus when you were younger? This season what are your expectations like?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I feel 20 years younger coming in this year. I feel great. For me, I feel like I got a lot better chance of playing better now than I did the last couple of years at least just because the way I feel.
It's still early days. We'll see how my back will hold up with this new disc. I think I'm first ever professional golfer that's had a disc replacements that plays on the tours. Although there have been hundreds of disc replacements on regular business people.
So we'll see how it will hold up in the next few months playing a lot and getting back into the swing things.
But for me, so far the results are unbelievable.
Q. How much more do you feel like you have to achieve in this game?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, you know, I think I still hit the ball fairly long enough to do well. I still feel that I have events to win out here. Majors, you know, for me I need to really play well now to get into the majors. I'm only in the U.S. Open at the moment because I've moved way out in the world rankings.
For me, my goal is to get back in the majors and the World Golf events and try to move up in the world rankings as quick as possible, but you just have to play good golf.
Q. Where are you?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I don't know, 120.
Q. You mentioned the majors. What's your perspective on why you think it's so difficult for players in their 40s to win majors? It happens occasionally, but not very often.
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, I don't know. Maybe it's just, yeah, you're hitting it 20 yards shorter than some of the other guys now. The youngstersare all whacking it out there 300 yards easy. You need to be strong, hit it a long way. Maybe the nerves get to you a little bit.
But Ernie did okay in his 40s, and so did many other players. Vijay. If you space it‑‑ and I feel like I'm in good shape now; I've worked out pretty good in the gym the last two months as well‑‑ you can play well.
Then there is putting. I've gone back to the short putter since it's going to be banned away all the putter. Although I'm a little bit disappointed with the way the new rule on the long putter has come out. That they only really banned the players that used it as a belly putter.
I feel that the rule was a little bit‑‑ I won't say discriminating‑‑ but it's just three guys with belly putters won majors, and the other guys using long putters, their putters wasn't banned.
For me, I feel like they should've banned the long putter and the putter should be held in the hands and should be no longer than 40 inches. That's the way I felt the rule should have been done.
There are guys still using long putters and they'll just find ways around the rules to still keep using the long putter. I just felt if they were going to ban long putter, they should have banned the long putter.
Q. Do you think it's an advantage to use it when it's not pressed to your body?
RETIEF GOOSEN: I still think it encouraged a good pendulum stroke the length of the putter. Even if you're not holding it up against you're chest but just holding it here, it's still encouraging ‑‑ I still think it's easier than holding it in your two hands way down there.
I just felt like it's going to be a lot little things round the rule that's going to come in. They should have just stuck with it has to be a short putter.
Q. So you're in favor the banning everything? You think they should have made the change?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah, I think this should've just been long putters out, must hold it in the hands the way it should be, and just make the maximum length for putters 40 inches.
Q. Did you feel like when you were putting alternatively from the shorter that you putted better, that it was an advantage?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yes. I think the long putter does make it easier on the shorter putts to keep the putter better in line a bit easier.
But on your longer putts you don't have so much feel at all as you do with a short putter. I think there was advantage on the shorter putts.
Q. A trade off?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Yeah. But now that they're planning on banning, they should've just banned it over and out.
Q. What do you think of waiting three years?
RETIEF GOOSEN: Well, by then something else would have come out. Guys holding it different. A few players holding it different already. I think they probably should've made it a shorter period of time or brought the rule a little bit closer.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports