A record 33 European Tour Members will tee up at Pinehurst No.2, North Carolina, this week where South Africa’s Retief Goosen will defend his US Open Championship title.
Goosen, winner in 2001 and 2004, will be seeking to become the first player to successfully defend the title since Curtis Strange in 1989 and join an elite group of five players to have won the US Open three times or more; Robert Trent Jones Jnr, Ben Hogan, Hale Irwin, Jack Nicklaus and Willie Anderson.
Fellow European Tour Member Ernie Els will also be chasing his third US Open title following his previous successes in 1994 and 1997, while no fewer than 11 Members will be making their debuts in the season’s second Major Championship, including seven of the nine players who successfully earned a place through the Final Qualifying at Walton Heath.
Nick Dougherty, Simon Dyson, Peter Hanson, Peter Hedblom, Søren Kjeldsen, Jose-Filipe Lima and Jonathan Lomas will all face the rigorous examination posed by a US Open course for the first time have progressed through Qualifying while Stephen Gallacher, Graeme McDowell and Nick O’Hern earned a berth by finishing in the top 15 of The 2004 European Tour Order of Merit. Richard Green completes the European Tour debutants list, having qualified through the Australasian Order of Merit.
Europe’s victorious 2004 Ryder Cup Captain, Bernhard Langer, also progressed through Qualifying in the United States and will line up alongside 11 of his charges from Oakland Hills, the one exception being Darren Clarke who withdrew last week to be with his wife Heather who is suffering from cancer,
Last year Goosen showed tremendous courage and fortitude to win the 104th US Open at Shinnecock Hills after a titanic battle with the then reigning Masters Champion Phil Mickelson. Goosen put on an incredible putting display on the treacherous greens, carding only 11 putts over the last nine holes, to win the title by two strokes.
Twelve months on and Goosen is raring to go again.With third place finishes in the Masters Tournament and the WGC – Accenture Match Play this season, Goosen has reserved his best form for the biggest events and remains confident as he heads to Pinehurst No.2, ranked among the toughest golfing tests in the world.
“I played there in 1999 when Payne (Stewart) won so I know the course fairly well,” said Goosen. “I’m looking forward to going back. I’ve heard it is fairly reminiscent of Shinnecock in the areas around the greens, the run-offs.
“Obviously to go back and defend a US Open is always nice and I am looking forward to doing a little better there than I did last time. I have a little more experience this time.”
Goosen, Els and Vijay Singh head The European Tour Challenge while another Member of the ‘big five’ at the top of the Official World Golf Rankings, Tiger Woods, starts the US Open with his sights set on matching Ben Hogan as the only player to win the first two Majors of the year on two occasions.
Hogan achieved the double in 1951 and again in 1953 while Woods did so in 2002, when he captured his second US Open title at Bethpage Black, after having triumphed at Augusta National. Only five players have won the Masters and the US Open in the same season.
Pinehurst, the Donald Ross masterpiece opened in 1907 at 5,870 yards. More recently, Rees Jones undertook renovations prior to the 1999 U.S. Open and in 2004 bunkering was repaired and the course was lengthened by about 100 yards. Pinehurst No. 2 now measures 7,214 yards and plays to a par of 70 with matching halves of 35.