US Open countdown: Retief Goosen blows the moment, not the victory

101st U.S. Open/June 14-18, 2001

Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Okla.


x-Retief Goosen, South Africa 66 - 70 - 69 - 71 276
Mark Brooks, United States 72 - 64 - 70 - 70 276
Stewart Cink, United States 69 - 69 - 67 - 72 277
Rocco Mediate, United States 71 - 68 - 67 - 72 278
Paul Azinger, United States 74 - 67 - 69 - 71 281
Tom Kite, United States 73 - 72 - 72 - 64 281
x-won in a playoff

It could have been a disaster.

Retief Goosen should have wrapped up this U.S. Open on Sunday. Holding a one-shot advantage, he hit his 6-iron approach flush from the 18th fairway. The golf ball ended up 15 feet from the pin for birdie on the finishing hole.

The sight of it made Mark Brooks immediately head to the clubhouse to clean out his locker.

But Goosen’s first putt carried 22 inches past the hole.

And the putt to win the tournament? Well, Goosen pulled it about as badly as you can on a putt of that distance.

“If it happened on the 17th hole, it wouldn’t have been that bad. But it happened on (No.) 18,” Goosen said. “But, you know, I just told myself that day was gone. (Monday) was a new day.”

The South African blew the moment, but he did not blow the championship. The next day in an 18-hole playoff, Goosen’s even-par 70 was two shots better than Brooks’ 72 — and he became the third golfer from that country to win the national open, joining Gary Player and Ernie Els.

It helped ease Goosen’s night-before anguish that Brooks, the 1996 PGA Championship winner, never found his steady hand in the playoff — especially off the tee.

Starting at the fifth hole, Brooks missed five consecutive fairways. His bogey at the seventh hole gave Goosen the lead for good.

At the 10th hole, Goosen curled in a 10-foot putt for birdie — and Brooks bogeyed to fall five shots behind.

So when it was time for Goosen to revisit that finishing green, his lead was still sizable — three strokes. He played it safe, making bogey to still win.

Goosen’s win also halted the incredible run by Tiger Woods at major championships. He had won the previous four titles to hold what is known as the “Tiger Slam.”

Woods tied for 12th in this U.S. Open, seven strokes back.