Retief Goosen claimed his eighth and, by a considerable distance, most emphatic victory on The European Tour International Schedule when he cruised to an eight stroke win in the Johnnie Walker Classic at Lake Karrinyup Country Club, Perth, Western Australia.
The reigning US Open Champion shot a closing 73, one over par, for a 14 under par total of 274 and still enjoyed the luxury of winning by that handsome margin over Pierre Fulke of Sweden, with Spaniard Sergio Garcia a further stroke behind.
Goosen’s first success in Australasia elevated him to Number One on the 2002 Volvo Order of Merit and confirmed his status as one of the most outstanding talents in world golf at the moment. Anyone seeking further evidence of that needed only to study his third round – the moment the tournament was effectively over as a contest.
A course record 63, nine under par, on Saturday secured another record for Goosen, who will be 33 next month. Goosen went into the third round with a one shot lead and completed the day 13 ahead of the best quality field on The European Tour in 2002.
His 15 under par total of 201 obliterated the previous 54 hole record lead of ten shots set by Tony Jacklin in the 1974 Scandinavian Enterprise Open and equalled by Ken Brown in the 1984 Glasgow Open and by Tiger Woods in the 2000 US Open Championship.
So impressive was Goosen’s score that this most modest of men awarded himself ten marks out of ten, describing the 63 as the best round of golf he had ever played. From that moment, his nearest rivals, Ernie Els and Garcia, knew that they were effectively playing for the honour of second place.
Goosen knew the title was only his to lose on the final day and he started anxiously, taking a double bogey six at the first while Els birdied. That three shot swing reduced the deficit to ten strokes, but it proved to be a temporary glitch, as Goosen steadily the ship and sailed serenely to victory with three birdies in his 73.
He said: “It was a big problem starting out because everybody was expecting me to win. If it had only been a two shot lead instead of 13 I think it might have been easier to go out and play. I managed to hang in there somehow and it was nice to pull it off.”
Goosen added: “It felt funny having such a big lead. In a way it made things more difficult. After the first hole I thought if things kept going wrong I was going to have a big problem. However I got there and by the 17th I was able to relax!”
Fulke produced his Sunday best with a 66 for runners-up spot on 282, six under par, while Garcia’s closing 69 left him in third on 283. Els, who double bogeyed the last for a 72, came next on 286.
It was a welcome return to form for Ryder Cup rookie Fulke, who admitted that the strain of qualifying for the Matches at The De Vere Belfry took its toll. He said: “I had a bit of a scare about not performing well in The Ryder Cup. I wasn’t playing well and felt I had to get the swing working by September. I promise you it will be better this year.
“I knew I was playing for second, but I’ve had nine weeks off and haven’t touched a club for all that time. I only got down here on Saturday and hit only 400 balls before this tournament so I have to be pleased. It’s a good effort.”
Garcia insisted that a “cold putter” had handicapped his attempt to start his season on The European Tour with a victory, but conceded that Goosen was in a class of his own. He said: “I doubt if I could have shot any higher than I did this week and it was all down to the putting. I couldn’t make one. Of course I wanted to finish second because it helps in terms of World Ranking and the Volvo Order of Merit.”
Raphael Jacquelin of France fired a closing 68 to share fifth with England’s Simon Dyson and Anthony Wall. They were the only players under par over a wonderful course which, by common consent, played to Major Championship specifications.