He wasn’t quite sure of what ‘serendipity’ meant when the interviewer asked him about it, but Retief Goosen had a feeling he was fated to play well in the 144th Open Championship which got underway on Thursday.
The two-time US Open champion has come back after back surgery which threatened to end his career, and posted a fine six-under-par 66 in the opening round on the Old Course ahead of some tough weather which was moving in as he completed his homeward nine.
“Maybe there is something good coming here,” he said. “I got lucky in the play-off to get into The Open with all three of us hitting horrible tee shots, and I hit mine out of the rough to 10 feet while they struggled. Maybe it’s something good coming.”
Goosen made the best possible start with birdies on the opening two holes as the early morning sunshine smiled on the ‘Home of Golf’, but then he dropped a shot unexpectedly on the third. “I made that one silly bogey on the third. I hit a poor tee shot into the bunker and had to come out sideways, but that was the only bad mistake.
“I also got lucky when I hit a poor second shot into 17. I was trying to hit it left of the flag and I hit it right of the flag, went over the green,” he added.
But to counteract those lapses, his putting got him right into the round. “Today I made a few good putts, and it all comes down to putting, especially on the front nine, the way it was playing,” he said. “There were a lot of wedges and so on that you could get close, and then you just had to make the putts. I know the greens fairly well around here. I’ve played here many, many times, and especially like my putt on 18, it’s hard to see that it’s actually going to break up the hill. It’s just from playing lots of golf here and seeing those breaks before.”
With Goosen’s game – and the putting in particularly – purring along like it is, his experience could make him a very credible con tender on the weekend as nerve-ends het frayed at the sharp end of the championship.
“It’s a golf course I’ve played for a long time, and the last two Opens that were here, I think I finished fifth and sixth or something, so I do like the course. So yeah, I would like to be there come Sunday and maybe have a chance, who knows. It would be great.”