Retief Goosen during the pro-am at the 70° Open d'Italia LINDT (Getty Images)
Retief Goosen admits he has no expectations as he prepares to play competitive golf for the first time in more than four months at this week’s 70° Open d’Italia Lindt.
The South African withdrew from The Players Championship in May with a back injury, which turned out to be a stress fracture.
That left the former European Number One needing a long period of rest, and Goosen revealed he had “no idea” where the ball was going during his practice round.
“The last couple of years have not been fun with a lot of injuries,” said the 44 year old, who has played only 11 tournaments in 2013.
“My back felt great at the start of the year and then suddenly I started to feel uncomfortable at the start of May and then the following week I couldn’t hit the ball.
“I was then told I had a stress fracture on the L-3 facet joint and that meant another three to four months of rest. Yesterday was the first time I played 18 holes in five months and I have to say it felt a little bit weird! I had no idea where the ball was going and I think I lost about four balls, but it is nice to be back and I am just very keen to get out there and play.
“It is never nice coming back when you have been out for so long. The swing is non-existent and the feel has just totally gone and you don’t know where the club is. So my goal for the next couple of weeks is to get some feel and some tempo and just try to get comfortable on the golf course again and see how the back holds up.
“It is a question of taking it easy. I haven’t played or practised much so I just want to get a bit of feel.”
While Goosen has an understandable sense of trepidation regarding his levels of performance this week, the two-time Major winner is delighted to be back in Italy, the country he and wife Tracy visited on their honeymoon 12 years ago.
“I am excited about the week and being back in Italy,” he added. “I haven’t been here for a long time but Italy is very special place for me because I came here on honeymoon with my wife many, many years ago and every time I come back it holds a lot of special memories.
“This week is a great golf course to come back on and it is in great shape. I am probably not expecting to win this week so I just want to try and enjoy the week and see what happens. And in golf you just never know.
“The field is very good this week. I think the standard of player on The European Tour now, and over the last 15 years, has improved a lot. It doesn’t matter where you play in the world now, you always have to play your best golf to win. There are a lot of good players here and I just don’t know what to expect from myself.”