Mathew Goggin stepped lightly on his way to the final pairing on Sunday. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Second go-round with Watson could be huge for Goggin
Mathew Goggin has great memories of playing with Tom Watson in the 2003 Open. They'll be paired again on Sunday, but this time in the final group, after Goggin literally ran up the board.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
TURNBERRY, Scotland -- After 54 holes in the 138th Open Championship at Turnberry, Australian Mathew Goggin finds himself in extremely unfamiliar position -- one shot off the lead in golf’s oldest championship on the land where the game was born.
Goggin braved the wind and fashioned an impressive 1-under 69 on Saturday. At 3-under 207 total, he is one shot behind a legend -- 59-year-old, five-time Open Champion Tom Watson, who will play alongside Goggin in the final pairing on Sunday.
Under the circumstances, Sunday will most certainly trump the last time Goggin was paired with Watson. It was in the third round of the 2003 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges, and that was pretty darned special, too.
“That was probably the highlight of the British Open for me, playing with Tom Watson in the third round, because he's such a great player and such a great champion, especially at the British Open,” Goggin said, reflecting on 2003. “And it was also shocking just how good he was. I mean, it was ridiculous. I played with him, and I'm thinking, you know, he's getting on in years and not playing so much and he's just smashing it around this golf course.
“And, you know, I was really impressed. He was really good to me and I had a really great experience,” he added. “It was definitely a highlight of the Open for me.”
Let’s get back to Saturday and the way Goggin ensured another go-round with Watson.
The turning point in the round, Goggin said, came at the eighth hole, a tricky 454-yard par 4. Coming off a birdie at the par-5 seventh, Goggin suddenly found himself staring double bogey square in the eyes on No. 8, but curled in a 12-footer to limit the damage to a bogey.
“I played quite well after that,” he said. “The last 10 holes were really solid.”
No doubt about that. With the wind picking up and gusting to over 20 mph at times, Goggin didn’t surrender a single shot to par on his way in. He picked up birdies on Nos. 11 and 17 -- with an interesting par on 16 mixed in -- to put the final touches on his 69.
After a perfect drive on No. 16, a par 4, Goggin had about 172 yards left to the hole. He hit what he thought was a perfect 8-iron approach, but the ball caught up in the wind. It found the front of the green, but with the surface sloping severely back toward Wilson’s Burn, Goggin entertained the galleries by running up to the green to mark his ball just to spare it any thoughts of rolling back into the burn after a brief break on the green.
“I was knackered after I did it,” joked Goggin about his run up to the green. “Probably wasn't a very good idea. I hit an 8-iron from -- it was about 157 meters (roughly 172 yards), I think. It seemed like plenty of club, it was riding the wind.
“I was really kind of staring it down thinking I hit a great shot,” he explained. “But when it landed where it did, I was a bit shocked, and it just looked like it wasn't going to stay there, so I just had to make sure, and then I was kind of messing around, too.”
So how will Goggin hold up under the pressure of playing in the final pairing in the final round of a major? It’s tough to tell. But in 2008, he carried a three-shot lead into the final round of the Memorial Tournament, which he lost in just the first four holes.
Goggin did recover after the horrid start to finish in a four-way tie for second that day, but says it was an experience that has made him a better player. Plus, he’ll be starting this final round on the prowl instead of in the lead.
“Each experience you learn something good or bad, and you sort of apply those lessons to the next time you're in the same situation,” Goggin said. “So I felt that was probably one of the steepest learning curves to me, just to realize how I wasn't relaxed and I got too quick and you start trying too hard as opposed to letting it come to you, so that was a big stepping stone for me as far as being comfortable in that sort of situation.
“And even a day like today, I felt very relaxed and very comfortable and played quite well, so you just try and go out and try to do the same thing tomorrow.”
If Goggin is able to make his first PGA TOUR win a major on Sunday, he would hardly be the first. In the last 40 years, a total of 12 players have accomplished that feat, including Ernie Els at the 1994 U.S. Open, Retief Goosen at the 2001 U.S. Open, Ben Curtis at the 2003 Open Championship and, most recently, Angel Cabrera at the 2007 U.S. Open.
What is it that’s prevented Goggin from winning over the years? After all, he’s had 18 top-10 finishes in the last five years.
“Just a lot of good players,” he said. “There are situations where you feel like you could have done more or you've made a mistake or other guys just made good shots. You just chip away and knock on the door and hopefully you walk through. This would be a nice week to do that, obviously.”
Especially with Watson along for the ride.