The former Polokwane local played in the President’s Cup in 2005, which was held at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, host of this week’s tournament. Those memories inspired the South Africans to produce some superb golf during the first round.
“I think it’s probably, you know, some of the older guys that played some Presidents Cups here and it probably have a little bit of good feeling for the place. I had a great 2005 here. We ended up losing and lost on the 18th hole on Sunday. It was painful but it was good week,” said Goosen.
The Goose showed good form at The Open Championship a fortnight ago, where he shared 20th place, but it was nothing quite like the display he put on at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club on Thursday.
“I played pretty well at the British Open, unfortunately struggled on the last day,” he said.
“Three, four years ago my career looked like it was at an end with my back problems. I’m not going to complain and say I should be playing great now but I’m just glad I’m still out there and playing. Yeah, I just wish I was ten years younger again,” the 46-year-old added.
Goosen made four birdies on either side of the turn to wrap up the first 18 in eight-under-par, which set him into a share of the lead with Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa.
One shot back and looking equally shiny was Ernie Els, who shot seven-under-par with a new putter in the bag. The Big Easy sank nearly everything he looked at, but his hole-out from a greenside bunker for an eagle at the 14th was surely the moment of his round.
The four-time major champion last played at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in 2000, but took to course quickly and worked his way to a share of third place.
“I felt good this morning and my putter felt great. I kind of like the course. Just a little bit of patience and experience. I need to, you know, climb quickly there on the FedEx Cup. I didn’t feel like really nervous today. I felt like anything is a bonus,” he said.
Els was conscious of the new wave of players dominating on the international stage, but as a winner of the 2012 Open Championship had something to say for the older professionals.
“Great young guys playing now, so I’m not sure. We’ll have to talk on Sunday. See if we still have it,” he concluded.