Retief Goosen has targeted the 2013 South African Open Championship for his return to competitive golf in South Africa as he gets back into tournament golf at this week’s Open d’Italia Lindt.
“I’m looking forward to playing in the SA Open in November,” he said, “and I’ll look at playing more events in South Africa if family commitments at that time of year allow me to do so.”
Goosen has been out of action for most of the year with back problems, and he played his first 18-hole round in five months as he prepared for the European Tour event at Golf Club Torino in Turin.
“It went well,” he said. “I’ve been having physiotherapy weekly, and I hit balls for the first time last week. The result is I have no feel in my swing at the moment. But I’m going to use this tournament and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship to try and find some game again.”
For the two-time US Open champion, it’s been a frustrating period of his career: “The last few years haven’t been fun,” he said from Turin. “No injury is ever fun. But there are extra questions a golfer asks, especially when it’s a back injury.”
The absence from the fairways of the world has seen his world ranking slip to 212th – he has been as high as world number three at times in his glittering career, and he started 2012 in 45th spot after his share of second with Ernie Els behind Branden Grace’s victory in the Volvo Champions at Fancourt.
“There’s nothing you can do about that,” he said. “The thing about the rankings is that it takes just one good week to move up again. In any case, that kind of thing just motivates me.”
It’s also been frustrating for him to see Nick Price making his selections for the International Team for the Presidents Cup on October 3-6 at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
“I’m sad not to be in that team for the first time in 13 years,” said Goosen of the team that includes five South Africans in the 12-man line-up. “You might as well call it the South African team,” he laughed.
For Goosen, it’s further proof of the strength of South African golf. “That three of the South Africans are novices shows that there are players from South Africa getting better all the time. And the whole point is underlined by the number of European Tour events that are being played in South Africa now.
“The economic climate has seen the European Tour moving sideways, losing some tournaments, and the Sunshine Tour has stepped up to the plate. It brings back memories of earlier days of the tour in South Africa,” he added.
Rekindling those memories is part of his mission this week in Italy. “It’s a long time since I played here,” he said. “It’s a nice course, but so is Glendower where the SA Open will be played. I nearly won it in 1993, when Clinton Whitelaw beat me by two shots. In fact, it’s a great course.”