One week after fellow South African, Ernie Els, won on The European Tour International Schedule in Switzerland, Retief Goosen took a leaf out of his friend's book and collected a title for himself by capturing the 34th and last Trophée Lancôme at Saint-Nom-La-Brèteche in Paris.
Goosen again displayed his front running qualities, carding a closing one under par 70 for an 18 under par total of 266 and a four stroke victory over Ireland’s Paul McGinley, having grasped the lead with a devastating 63 on Thursday and never relinquishing it.
However he had to hold his concentration and nerve to succeed as McGinley, without a success since landing The Celtic Manor Resort Wales Open in August 2001 as a stepping stone to Ryder Cup glory 12 months ago, closed to within one stroke of the leader on the back nine.
Ultimately a double bogey seven at the 16th proved costly and McGinley finished runner-up with a level par 71 for 270 while French favourite, Raphael Jacquelin and England’s Ian Poulter shared third place on 271 after rounds of 67 and 70 respectively.
It was the ninth victory on The European Tour International Schedule by 34 year old Goosen and his first since his even more impressive eight stroke success in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Jaunary 2002.
Meanwhile McGinley, Jacquelin and Poulter enjoyed the non inconsiderable consolation of picking up a bundle of useful Ryder Cup points in the race to make the European Team for The 35th Ryder Cup Matches at Oakland Hills Country Club, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, one year from now.
Goosen, whose abilities to lead from the gun where highlighted when he led wire-to-wire to claim the 2001 US Open Championship – another example of him following in Els’s footsteps! – expressed a sense of regret at the departure of a familiar event on the Schedule since 1971.
However he was understandably satisfied with his week’s work, despite an erratic final day with his usually reliable driver. He said: “It’s been a great week here with my family but a tough one on the golf course today. I struggled with my swing and I think I used all of the golf course to get this job done!
“The course was starting to play tough on the back nine and I got a break on the 16th when Paul made a double bogey” added Goosen, who moved to tenth on the Volvo Order of Merit, but as he conceded, “a mile” behind Els in his bid to be European Number One for a third successive year.
As Goosen pointed out, the tournament was in his hands when McGinley, who had closed within two strokes, ran up that double bogey seven and had to content himself with a second place finish. Goosen’s five birdies were almost negated by four bogeys, including one at the punishing 18th for the second day in a row.
Goosen began the day three shots ahead of the field and stretched it to five after he birdied the first and playing partner McGinley bogeyed. That left Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts to take up the chase and twice he succeeded in reducing his deficit to two shots. Firstly he eagled the sixth from 25 feet while Goosen took six, and after Goosen birdied the seventh, the young Belgian birdied the eighth.
Goosen went three clear again on the ninth when Colsaerts found trouble off the tee, but there was more drama to come at the 11th. With McGinley sitting just eight feet from the hole, Goosen took two to escape from rough to the right of the fairway to make bogey, while
Colsaerts escaped at the first attempt from a similar spot only to find the water at the back of the green. That led to a double bogey six and after Goosen had missed for par, McGinley calmly holed to close the gap to just one shot.
Goosen could be forgiven for thinking back to 2001 when he lost a four-shot lead with four holes to play against Sergio Garcia, but he responded to the threat in style with birdies at the next two holes, the second from a matter of inches, to edge three ahead again.
That proved decisive and Goosen's path to victory was sealed when both McGinley and Colsaerts ran up double bogey sevens on the 16th. The latter went on to finish fifth on his own but it was a solid week for the youngster who continues to show great potential.