Goosen in silent running as his clubs do the talking on Tiger's trail

The South African lies two strokes behind the overnight leader after a round characterised by trademark poise, serenity and calm. The noisiest thing about him all day was his waterproofs, crackling in the wind.

If it is Goosen who is left wearing the trousers on Sunday evening we can expect the most muted of celebrations. The world No 5, once a club-throwing beast of the fairways, has overcompensated to the point where all passion seems to have been syringed out of him. He does not emote and he does not speak much, either.

Most people get smugly boring in the post-round discussion of a 68. Yet when Goosen was called on to elaborate on his nerveless composition he came to the interview area with all the joie de vivre of a man arriving for root canal treatment.

"I'm still not hitting it as correct or as good as I know I can hit it," he said. "I hit a couple of good shots out there, which gives you a bit of confidence. I probably didn't drive it as well as I'd like to. But the big difference was I putted better today. I made a few good putts and that's the difference." The easy notion was that this effort was catharsis for the big man. The last time he appeared on the major stage was in the US Open at Pinehurst, where he managed to turn a three-stroke final-round lead into ashes with an 81. Goosen insisted that was now a mere footnote and you had to believe him.

"Pinehurst is pretty much history," he said. "I wasn't thinking about it at all... It was one of those rounds of golf I've been playing bad. Pinehurst has been completely forgotten."

It was an early start for Goosen, a 7.14am tee time in company with Todd Hamilton, the defending champion, and Lee Westwood. It was cooler than of late and the morning wind was not particularly offensive. The Old Course was still relatively sleepy, but it did hold an immediate terror for Westwood.

To start as he had done at Royal Troon last year - when he was the first European in fourth place - might have carried mightier symbolism had he not been replicating a double-bogey six. A sand wedge into the Swilken Burn and a missed short putt added up to another fine mess.

"It's becoming a trend," Westwood said after his 76. "You want to get off to a good start anywhere. But knocking it into the stream at the first is not the way to do it. I didn't particularly play very well. I didn't hit that many good shots. When I did hit good shots I didn't hole the putts. You can't score well doing that. I just wasn't on my game."

Hamilton had to birdie three of the last four holes to get away with a 74. Not much happened for the American, not many putts of any distinction and little gallery acknowledgement that here was the champion golfer of 2004. He was an unheralded sovereign. "I thought the pins were difficult today for me," Hamilton said. "There were a lot of bounces away from the holes. You don't see many balls bouncing towards the hole and that makes it tough. This is a difficult golf course."

It was tranquil on both sides of the ropes. Goosen does that to people. You could imagine him being admonished in a library for being too quiet.

His golf, though, was soon rumbling when he hit a sand wedge to two feet on the third. A drive and a two-iron then took him to within chipping distance of the par-five fifth and a four-foot putt did the rest. Goosen did not let the supine 352-yard ninth escape either, surfing the prevailing south-west wind to drive the green. An eight-iron to 20 feet at the 10th was converted, as was a 10-foot putt on No 12.

But then, just as the name of Tiger Woods started to creep up the leaderboards behind him, it went wrong.

It was, in totality, a beautiful round, which featured only one other slip, a bogey on the seventh, but Hole-O'Cross-in, the 13th, was the scar on the angel's face.

Goosen and Westwood both drove into the last of the fairway coffin bunkers - for which the clue is in the name. Westwood, who must have considered his round was going nowhere at that stage, actually found himself going backwards to extricate himself from the trap.

Goosen did manage to move his ball ahead, but a lacklustre approach was followed by three putts and the shape of the round had changed. The 36-year-old may have been mad, but it did not show. You could never tell if he was on the way to a wedding or a funeral. There was immediate damage limitation at the longest hole on the course, the 618 yards over the Beardies, Elysian Fields and Hell Bunker, which Goosen covered with a driver and three-wood before taking two putts from 30 feet.

A drive on the last was not far from going out of bounds over the back, and two putts followed for a seventh and final birdie of the round.

At the debrief, the suspicion was that Goosen quite fancies his chances - even if his assessment was somewhat downbeat.

"Obviously some of the flags will get tougher as the week goes on but, if the weather stays like this, you're probably going to have to get up there to 14 under," he said. "I'm looking forward to the week, hopefully to get a good tournament in and give myself a good chance on Sunday."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?