Edgy Goosen stays on top

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The Independent Online

Retief Goosen is back on top of the European Order of Merit he won last year after his eight-shot victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic here yesterday. The South African began the day with a 13-stroke lead – a European tour record – and to lose he needed to have about 10 bad holes rather than just one. It did not happen and even with a closing 73 Goosen could look back on the biggest victory of his career.

He finished on 274, 14 under par, and, as everybody anticipated, the only real battle was for the runners-up place. The Swedish Ryder Cup player Pierre Fulke took it with a 35ft closing putt for a best-of-the-day 66 which pushed Sergio Garcia into third place and Ernie Els into fourth.

"I agree with Greg Norman when he said he'd rather have a two-shot lead than a much bigger one entering the final round," Goosen said. "There's so much pressure on you when you are expected to win. It's a funny feeling and it's very difficult. I was just trying to hang in there, telling myself to stay calm and focused and I only started relaxing after the 17th.

"The first hole was a bit of a shock. I don't know what happened."

The 32-year-old, having seen his playing partners Garcia and Els smash drivers just off the green at the 298-yard hole, hit a five-iron for safety. Or at least that was the intention. Goosen sliced it into a bush whose locally-known name has been changed from "black boy" to "grass tree" for obvious reasons. He took a penalty drop, but caught branches with his next shot and moved it only about 10 yards, almost hitting a scorer.

With Els making birdie the 13-shot lead became 10 and, when Garcia birdied the second, Goosen was trying not to think about last September's Lancôme Trophy in Paris, where the Spaniard beat him from four behind with four to play.

Only when he holed from 40ft on the short fifth did Goosen start looking like the player who had broken the course record on Saturday with his 63. He ran up another six at the long 15th and also bogeyed the last, but there were further birdies at the 11th and 16th as attention turned to the race for second.

Fulke's performance was his best since he reached the final of the Accenture world match play 12 months ago, also in Australia.

Garcia, who began the month by winning the Mercedes Championship on the US Tour, said: "What Goose did was unbelievable, but there is no way I should have been only five under. I couldn't make a single putt.

"It was going to be very difficult to win, but I wanted to get second. The way I hit the ball I should have done easily and that's very disappointing. But third is not bad."

In the Order of Merit, Goosen overtakes Sweden's Jarmo Sandelin, who drops to second while Jose Maria Olazabal is third. Fulke, climbs to fourth, while Justin Rose, winner of last week's Dunhill Championship in Johannesburg, is fifth.