Retief Goosen cemented his reputation for playing well on difficult courses with a textbook-like final-round putting exhibition to hold off Phil Mickelson and win the 104th U.S. Open Championship on June 21 at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y.
The native South African, paired with longtime friend and fellow countryman Ernie Els, stayed in control of his game while virtually everyone in the field was losing theirs.
While Els struggled to a disappointing 80, Goosen finished with a 1-over-par 71, good for a 4-under-par 276 total and a two-stroke victory over Phil Mickelson, with whom he was locked in a back-nine duel until the left-hander doublebogeyed the 71st hole.
Goosen's steely resolve to achieve a second Open title in four years was the winning formula on a difficult Shinnecock Hills layout, earning him his second career major championship and a return to the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, Nov. 22-24, at Poipu Bay Golf Course at Kauai Resort & Spa in Kauai, Hawaii.
Mickelson once again came close to winning his first U.S. Open title, but the three-putt at the par-3 17th doomed him to his third career runner-up finish at the event. Mickelson's final-round 71 left him where he started the day in relation to Goosen, two strokes behind, and with a total score of 2-under-par 278.
"I'm not disappointed in the way I played at all," said Mickelson, whose Master's victory in April secured his place in the 2004 PGA Grand Slam of Golf. "I would have liked to have won, that's all. But I can't worry about the fact that somebody played better than me, because Retief played some great golf."
Goosen and Els are the only international players to capture the U.S. Open since 1981, when Australia's David Graham won at Merion.
He seemed poised to take the tournament by force Sunday after landing his second shot to the par-4 first in the middle of the green and quickly draining a long birdie putt to jump to 6-under-par.
But Shinnecock, which bared all its teeth in the dry, windy conditions over the weekend, soon caught up with Goosen as well, making a 6-foot putt for par seem an impossibility at the par-2 second after his tee shot found a greenside bunker.
Goosen bogeyed the eighth and 10th holes, but birdied the par-3 11th from 4 feet to regain a two-stroke lead over Mickelson. From there, Goosen made a remarkable recovery for a bogey on the par-4 14th by rolling in a 13-foot putt.
Mickelson, supported by thousands of fans from hole to hole on the back nine, made a valiant charge down the stretch and knocked his approach to 6 feet for a birdie at the 15th to tie Goosen at 3-under-par, then briefly took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 16th.
Goosen responded minutes later, making a 10-footer for birdie. Mickelson then put his tee shot on the par-3 17th into a front bunker and blasted out to 5 feet above the hole.
He ran his par putt 4 feet past the cup and failed convert the bogey putt.
Goosen reached the 18th fairway and put his approach just off the putting surface. This time, forgetting his three-putt effort that forced a playoff in the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills, Goosen lagged his putt to within 4 feet and putted for par and thewin.
"I didn't want to three-putt," said Goosen, who only needed 24 putts to get around Shinnecock in the final round. "Two-putt, win this thing, and go home."
Jeff Maggert, who tied for fourth at Shinnecock in 1995, posted a 72 to finish alone in third place at 1-over-par 281. Mike Weir and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama, who held a piece of the lead after each of the first two rounds, were one shot further back at 2-over-par 282.
Fred Funk, who played alongside Mickelson in the final round, finished with a 77 to take sixth place at 5-over-par 285. Robert Allenby, who began the day in a tie for 34th, shot a 70 to share seventh place with Steve Flesch at 7-over-par 286.
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