Retief Goosen achieved a state of near perfection in the Johnnie Walker Classic at Lake Karrinyup Country Club, shooting the round of his life to carry a barely credible 13 stroke lead into the final round in Perth.
The 32 year old South African awarded himself 10 out of 10 for his remarkable performance, in which he obliterated the day old course record by two shots with a nine under par 63. Goosen was rewarded for his brilliance with a 15 under par total of 201 and that staggering 13 shot lead over Ernie Els and Sergio Garcia.
It was a breathtaking display by the 2001 Volvo Order of Merit winner, highlighted by the fact that only five players are under par going into the last round of a tournament which is as good as over with a day to spare. Seldom has an outcome been as clear cut since Tiger Woods demoralised the field in the 2000 US Open Championship, which he won by 15 shots.
Now Goosen can fix his sights on breaking every record in the book. He has already achieved a new standard for a 54 hole lead, which previously stood at 10 shots achieved by Woods in the 100th US Open Championship, Tony Jacklin in the 1974 Scandinavian Enterprise Open and Ken Brown in the Glasgow Open in 1984.
He could conceivably break The European Tour and US PGA Tour winning margin, which stands to Woods at Pebble Beach. The largest winning margin on the Davidoff Tour is 12 strokes while the all-time mark was attained by Australian Randall Vines, who won the 1968 Tasmanian Open by 17.
Goosen, just like his closest challengers, could hardly believe his eyes as he gazed at the leaderboards. He admitted: “I’ll give myself 10 out of 10. I played great. I’ve shot 62 a couple of times at Loch Lomond but I would say in the conditions, and the way the course is set up, this is probably the best round I’ve played.”
Now Goosen intends staying sharp and focused mentally as he heads into the last round with his apparently impregnable advantage. He added: “I have to keep concentrating and playing the way I have been playing and not get too far ahead of myself. I will just play the course the way I’ve been playing for the last three days and keep the same sort of game plan.
“I am seeing the shots so well out there and obviously I am reading the greens great. I’ve been hitting the ball well for the last three weeks and it was only the putting which was holding me back. Actually I thought I needed to shoot about four under today to keep myself ahead and I am very surprised to see that I am this far ahead.”
Garcia shot a level par 72 for 214 and said: “Retief is playing unbelievable. Can I catch him from 13 shots behind? No, there’s no way. He’s playing too well. I would have to shoot something like nine under and he would have to be a few over, but I can’t see that happening. I will see if I can finish second.”
Els, round in 71 to get into the attractive final three-ball with Goosen and Garcia, commented: “He’s always had the talent, as he showed last year. What can I say? He’s playing wonderful golf. I just want to see if I can play a little better tomorrow.”
England’s Simon Dyson and Anthony Wall shared fourth place as the only other players under par on 215 after rounds of 70 and 69 respectively, while Wayne Riley of Australia and Swede Pierre Fulke are on level par, 216.
Wall, encouraged by his Australian fiancée, Sharon, in the gallery, was in good position to grab second place but bogeyed the last two holes. Afterwards he also paid his own tribute to Goosen, the pacemaker extraordinaire.
He said: “I think the course is playing tough. The greens are good and if you are playing well you can score, as Retief has demonstrated. I think he’s in a different league and shown his true class. I played with him in the third round last week and he had a 70 then we both shot 65 on the Sunday. He’s obviously playing some very good golf.
“He was always the man waiting to come through and he’s done it. What can you say? He’s just class. He oozes class. Everything he does is very quiet. He’s a gentleman as much as anything else and a real true sportsman. I think he’s great.”