Retief Goosen did some mental number crunching with six holes remaining of his first round in The Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and, just for a moment, saw the magical figure of 59 appear in his mind. The chance to become the first player on The European Tour to break 60 eluded him- but not the first round lead in the rain-affected event.
Goosen, the new US Open champion, was nine under par after 12 and requiring three more birdies to shoot 59, but a bogey at the 13th stopped him in his tracks and the end product was a nine under par 62 and a three stroke lead over Antipodeans, Jarrod Moseley and Elliot Boult.
The South African began his round four hours late after heavy overnight rain forced the start to be delayed. Play continued until 9.15pm and the remainder of the first round resumed in a light drizzle at 8.15am on Friday morning.
The main mover on the resumption was Adam Scott - another Australian - who completed the final two holes for a six under par 65.
Justin Rose renewed an acquaintance with an old friend, the putter with which he finished fourth in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 1998, and carded a four under par 67.
Some of the big names were grouped on three under par - Greg Norman, John Daly and Thomas Bjorn all finishing on 68.
Meanwhile on Thursday, once the first day action started, it was red hot entertainment as Goosen flew from the starting blocks with two birdies and an eagle to stand four under par after three.
Five birdies later, Goosen stood on the 13th tee at nine under par but a poor drive resulted in his only error. He said: “Yes the figure came into my mind after the 12th and with the 13th coming up and a good drive, I could probably have reached the green in two. The bogey really stopped it.
“I knew the chances were there but the last few holes are tough. I could have been 11 under if I had birdied those two (the 13th and 14th) but I would still have needed another one somewhere. I’m happy with the round, though, and hope I can build on it.”
Goosen certainly has a special affinity with Loch Lomond. Four years ago he started with a bogey and broke the course record with a 62. The difference this time is that preferred lies were in operation following a deluge of Biblical proportions.
There is a spring in Goosen’s step these days after his remarkalble play-off victory at Southern Hills last month. Never an extrovert, the 32 year old sounds and acts more confident having proved he could take on and beat the best in the world.
“Yes, obviously I am a lot more confident out there now. You realise you can play under pressure conditions. Obviously my confidence is very high at the moment and I a working on it. I’ve been working with Jos (Vanstiphout) for a long time to try to get my confidence up and it seems to pay of now. It’s obviously helping so we’re not going to change anything.”
Moseley, winner of the Heineken Classic on his European Tour debut in 1999, fired a six under par 65 to get within three strokes of Goosen, as did New Zealander Boult while Scott joined the group on Friday.
Mosely attributed his score to some serious graft in the company of teacher Denis Pugh, with whom he started working only a few weeks ago.
That liaison came on the advice of fellow Australian Peter O’Malley, who had won the Compass Group English Open last month under the tutelage of Pugh. Moseley commented: “My golf swing wasn’t right and Peter put me on to Denis, as he had been seeing him for so long. It’s taken a bit of time but it feels more comfortable now out on the golf course. It would be nice to emulate what Peter did in the English Open.”
While Moseley arrived in Scotland on the back of three successive missed cuts, Boult’s recent record was also particularly ordinary – one cut made in his last four starts. However the Kiwi, who came in as a replacement for injured defending champion Ernie Els, made the most of that break.
“I’ve got Ernie’s locker so hopefully I can go on and play like him this week” he said with a smile. “It’s a good omen – and I’m right next door to Colin Montgomerie as well. I am a bit lucky to get in so late but I would rather play here and try to get into the Open that way then go to pre-qualifying.”
Gary Evens of England and Germany’s Alex Cejka both shot four under par 67s to move into the slipstream behind Goosen, while 1999 winner Colin Montgomerie and his predecessor in 1998, Lee Westwood, did not fare so well.
Montgomerie bogeyed the last for a round of 70 while Westwood shot a 72. Sergio Garcia, another player to know the feeling of shooting a 62 at Loch Lomond – also on preferrred lies – in 1999 finished with a dropped shot for a round of 69.
“It was Goosen’s day” said Montgomerie by way of summing up the leaderboard. “It was disappointing to drop one at the last but I was caught in three minds over my chip. I just love finishing that way! Never mind – we can get it going tomorrow.”