DURBAN, South Africa -- The Volvo Golf Champions in South Africa marked the return of two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who had not played in five months after finally having surgery on his back.
Goosen's back had been bothering him for the last three years, and he reached a point that he felt his only choice was disc replacement surgery. His last event was the PGA Championship. He opened in South Africa with a tie for 20th.
''Really since the day after the surgery, I was walking. And a week later, my back was feeling good,'' Goosen said last week. ''And so far, it's been five months now and it's still feeling great. Getting a bit tight from hitting a few rounds ... but so far so good. Very excited about the new year. Hopefully, the back will stay as good as it feels now. I just need to really work on my swing a little bit and find a bit of game.''
To say he has a clean bill of health takes in more than just his back.
''I've been off painkillers,'' he said. ''That cleans the system out a little bit. You feel a bit better. So I'm feeling very confident for this year.''
Goosen is playing Qatar and Dubai before eventually making his way to America. At this point, he is eligible only for the U.S. Open among the majors. He still has plenty of work to do on his swing.
Goosen said he was falling away on his swing last year because that's how his back was leaning. Now that new disk has straightened his back, he can stay on top of the ball better. The goal is to regain strength and the timing in his swing.