Friday, 19 March 2010
Retief Goosen struck a huge blow for The European Tour at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa when he beat American Mark Brooks in the 18 hole play-off to win the 101st US Open Championship.

The 31 year old South African from Pietersburg followed in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Gary Player and Ernie Els onto the US Open roll of honour with a controlled performance from tee to green allied to a clinical display on the greens, winning in the end by two shots, level par 70 to Brooks's 72.

Such was Goosen’s domination of the majority of the round that he could even afford to make bogey fives at both the 17th and 18th, as Brooks made birdie three at the 17th, and still win comfortably.

The South African’s first Major title yielded a first prize of $900,000 and in the process comprehensively silenced the doubters who proclaimed his chance of winning had gone after he three-putted the 72nd hole in regulation play on Sunday night.

"I've certainly had to work hard for this win, it's been a long week and it's felt like a year out there," said Goosen.

"But I played pretty solid all week and the putter was warm in places, except for yesterday afternoon but I mean, what can I say, this is absolutely amazing."

Having recovered from falling behind early on Goosen, the winner of four titles on The European Tour International Schedule, pulled level at the sixth, moved ahead at the seventh and from there on gradually pulled away from Brooks whose play became increasingly ragged.

The 40 year old Texan boasted the greater Major experience, having played in 47 tournaments compared to Goosen’s 16, and he also had in his locker the knowledge of having won the 1996 US PGA Championship at Valhalla.

But since that memorable win five years ago, Brooks had failed to finish in the top three of any event on the US Tour and his absence from the pressure of top level competition told as the play-off unfolded in the 90 degree heat.

After an early Brooks birdie, Goosen drew level at the 175 yard sixth with a five foot birdie putt after an exquisite eight iron tee shot finished pin high, and the South African moved ahead at the next hole after the American drove into the trees and made bogey.

It was the start of an erratic period of play from Brooks especially from the tee. At the ninth his drive finished close to a tree meaning he could only hack the ball forward on his way to another bogey five, an error which was compounded when Goosen rolled in a sliding 18 footer for a birdie three.

It saw the South African to the turn in two under par 33 to Brooks’s one over par 36 and within minutes Goosen’s three shot lead was increased to five as the events of the ninth hole were reciprocated on the 374 yard tenth.

Another pushed drive saw Brooks able only to pitch out round the trees on his way to a bogey five as Goosen’s clinical putting stroke came up trumps again, this time from 15 feet for birdie.

One of Goosen’s greatest golfing achievements of recent years was his ten consecutive wins in the medal match play format of the Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews between 1997 and 1998 and the South African used that experience as the play-off moved towards its conclusion.

With a five shot cushion, Goosen did nothing cavalier and simply matched Brooks shot for shot from the 11th to the 15th, including matching bogey fives at the testing 456 yard 12th.

Brooks had chances to reduce the deficit but failed to grasp them. He fluffed a chip on the way to his bogey at the 12th and needed two shots to escape from a bunker at the back of the green on his way to par at the long 13th.

At the 15th and 16th the American had realistic birdie opportunities but saw his first effort from eight feet at the 15th spin round the hole and stay above ground, before his ten foot effort at the 16th slid past the left edge of the cup.

Brooks did eventually card a red figure at the 17th, holing bravely from 14 feet as Goosen overshot the green and failed to get up and down, but it proved too little too late.

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