European Tour Member Retief Goosen won the 104th US Open Championship after a titanic battle with the reigning Masters Champion Phil Mickelson at Shinnecock Hills, a final round of 71 for a four under par total of 276 giving him a two stroke winning margin.
It was Goosen’s second US Open victory following his previous success in 2001 at Southern Hills, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and crowned a breathtaking final day in New York in which the two main protagonists performed magnificently under the toughest of examinations. No player in the 66 field broke par, the first time that has happened in a US Open Championship since 1963, further emphasizing the achievement of both players to shoot one over par 71.
Under a sun-drenched sky and testing westerly wind, the course at Shinnecock Hills was running firm and treacherously fast, but in the manner of a true champion, Goosen rose to the challenge. Time and again on the final afternoon, the 35 year old, winner of the Volvo Order of Merit in 2001 and 2002, holed crucial putts under pressure as Mickelson edged ever closer and even took the lead. Indeed the statistics show Goosen only hit six greens in regulation but made 12 single putts and 24 putts in total.
Ultimately the US Open Championship was decided in a crucial two minute spell when, moments after falling behind for the first time, Goosen birdied the 16th as Mickelson three putted the 17th for a double bogey. In that moment the pendulum swung in Goosen’s favour for good as he moved from one behind to two ahead with just two holes remaining. Both those holes were safely negotiated in par for a memorable victory.
“I holed some good putts coming down the stretch,” said Goosen. “Unfortunately Phil made five on the 17th and I made a good up and down from the bunker. I knew it was tough out there and it would come down to chipping and putting. I was just trying to leave myself in a position where I had a chance of holing par putts. Everyone struggled and I am just glad to come out on top. It is great to stand here with the trophy again.”
Starting the final round two strokes clear of Mickelson and World Number Two Ernie Els, Goosen got off to the perfect start as he birdied the opening hole to forge three clear as those ahead of him struggled, splitting the fairway off the tee, hitting his approach to 28 feet and rolling in the putt to move to six under for the Championship.
Before long the other challengers, including Els who started with a double bogey, had slipped back as they struggled to come to terms with the brutal conditions, leaving centre stage to Goosen and Mickelson as they played out a enthralling battle on one of America’s finest courses.
After his initial birdie, Goosen slipped back with a bogey four at the second after finding the front right bunker off the tee but parred the third to stay three shots ahead. Moments later, though, Mickelson holed a 20 foot birdie putt at the par four fourth to close the gap to two, and secure outright second place at three under.
The gap between the two was down to one when Goosen bogeyed the eighth but the two shot cushion was restored when Mickelson three putted the treacherous tenth hole to go back to two under par.
Turning for home Goosen dropped a shot on the tenth, missing from ten feet and, as he did so, Mickelson holed out from a similar distance a hole ahead to save his par to remain just one adrift. But Goosen responded to the challenge magnificently, hitting a sensational eight iron on the 11th to three feet and converting the birdie putt to edge another stroke clear.
A brave second shot from rough on the 12th for Mickelson ran through the green, leaving him another very difficult chip and, despite a remarkable recovery to eight feet, he dropped another shot to fall three behind going into the last six holes.
Mickelson hit back with a birdie from 20 feet on the 13th and Goosen, from deep rough back down the fairway after a pushed iron from the tee, saw his second shot career over the opposite side of the fairway. But from an area trampled by spectators he played an exquisite chip to ten feet and holed out for a four to remain two clear.
A blocked nine iron on the 14th plugged in the right bunker for Goosen and his third caught in the thick collar of rough. His subsequent chip ran 20 feet past but holed the return for a bogey. And as Goosen dropped a shot, roars from the home crowd erupted ahead as Mickelson birdied the 15th to move into a share of the lead for the first time.
Goosen found another horrible lie off the 15th tee, leaving him little option but to play into the bunker short of the green and showing true grit, Goosen saved his par from ten feet to remain tied for the lead.
But up ahead Mickelson was piling on the pressure. Using the slopes on the 16th green, Mickelson chipped to eight feet and then converted his third birdie in the space of four holes to take the outright lead for the first time.
Goosen immediately hit back with his own birdie on the 16th, holing yet another clutch putt from some 15 feet for a four to move back to four under par while Mickelson, who found sand with his tee shot, missed from five feet for a par and then missed the return to drop two shots on the 17th and suddenly Goosen was back to two ahead with two to play. If ever there was a critical moment in the outcome of a Major Championship this was it. In the space of just a couple of minutes Goosen has reversed his fortunes and gone from one behind to two ahead with two to play.
Like Mickelson before him, Goosen found the bunker on the left side of the 17th but he recovered magnificently to just a couple of feet to save his par and give himself a two stroke cushion playing the final hole which he safely negotiated with a par to win by two.
Els, US Open Champion in 1994 and 1997, saw his challenge fade over the early holes after he got off to the worst possible start with a double bogey on the first. Having found the rough off the tee, he got a flier with his approach which finished through the back of the green and he failed to find the putting surface with his chip.
But the current European Tour Number One then rolled in a 25 foot putt from just off the edge of the green at the third to improve to two under only to fall further behind with dropped shots at the fourth, fifth, seventh before a double bogey on the eighth took him out of the reckoning and he eventually closed with a round of 80 to finish joint ninth on seven over par 287.
Another European Tour Member, Angel Cabrera, of Argentina, enjoyed an impressive week as he finished strongly with a 75 for a nine over par 289 and 16th place.
Spain’s Sergio Garcia saw his hopes of a maiden Major Championship victory disappear as he slipped down the field into joint 20th position with a final round of 80 to finish on 11 over par 291.
American Jeff Maggert, who birdied the first when he holed his bunker shot, kept his hopes alive with some great putts on the final afternoon as he closed with a 72 to finish one over par and alone in third place.