Goosen intent on keeping ball rolling

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The Independent Online

He has won almost £1 million in the last month, he has just collected his first major, he is South African and his name is not Ernie Els. If there is such a thing as a talking horse in golf then Retief Goosen is not exactly talking as screaming his head off. Victory at the US Open, followed by a two-week break, followed by a sixth place in the European Open in Dublin, followed by a win at last week's Scottish Open.

With form like that, if Goosen was a horse he would be 3-1 for the Open, even with the Arkle-like presence of Tiger Woods in the field. Instead he is a best-priced 25-1 – and that could be construed as a little stingy considering that before last week's four-shot victory over Thomas Bjorn he was 50-1. In racing parlance, he is an each-way certainty.

Yesterday Goosen was in the company of two South African legends, Gary Player and Els. Player is on one of those emotional farewell visits that the Open does so well. The Black Knight would have to finish in the top 20 this year to earn another exemption next year and that is about as likely as Goosen coming outside the top 20.

The 32-year-old is only too aware of the nostalgia of it all. "Today was quite an experience out there. It is great to play with Gary, which is possibly his last Open. The last hole he was a little emotional with us. It is a shame – he has done so much for the game." Player, of course, won at Lytham in 1974 after finding his ball in the rough on the 17th hole, seconds within the allotted five-minute period – an episode that is still discussed in golf club bars up and down the land. As Goosen is in the middle of a patch so purple that Prince would be proud, he will never have a better chance to emulate the 66-year-old as he does here this week.

With that stoicism so typical to South Africans, Goosen acknowledges the expectations surrounding him. "There is pressure on me this week, having to try and play well, you know, but at the same time I know I am playing well, so maybe the combination will be good this week. Maybe having a little pressure on me I will just try that little bit harder." Goosen will not need to try as hard as the others, however, as his US Open win cast off the Tiger-persecution complex that so many of the professionals are under. "To win a US Open, if you don't have any belief in you by then that you can win a major championship, then I don't think you will ever have. Tiger or no Tiger. Now I have been there and know I can play under that sort of pressure, I am sure that I will have more chances in the other majors than I did before."

The conditions will give Goosen, a no-thrills player who ensures the ball is always above ground, a better chance than most. While the majority will be looking to the heavens for some respite from the rain that appeared here around 5pm yesterday, Goosen will be willing it down. At Loch Lomond last week he said that the tougher it was the better it would be, and he is still in a masochistic mood.

'The course is tough. I mean the rough is punishing this week. I remember last time (in 1996) you could hit it in the rough and still get to the green. It will sort out a lot of them." The fierce wind and rough may just sort out Els. The Big Easy found the going difficult yesterday with his bad back and sped off for a visit to the osteopath soon after the practice round. But Goosen knew better than to write off his great friend. "Beware the wounded golfer," Goosen said. The rest would be advised to beware his best mate as well.

OPEN TEE-OFF TIMES FOR FIRST TWO ROUNDS AT ROYAL LYTHAM

(GB and Irl unless stated)

0700 (tomorrow) and 1146 (Friday) H Tanaka (Japan), D Howell, D Smyth

0711 and 1157 M Roe, R Chapman, J Hugo (SA)

0722 and 1208 J Durant (US), T Izawa (Japan), S Dyson

0733 and 1219 T Bjorn (Den), B Faxon, C Franco (Par)

0744 and 1230 S Katayama (Japan), D Paulson (US), J Rose

0755 and 1241 M Calcavecchia (US), P Price, S Stricker (US)

0806 and 1252 P Harrington, J Huston (US), S Maruyama (Japan)

0817 and 1303 E Els (SA), I Woosnam, D Hart (US)

0828 and 1314 J Leonard (US), M A Jimenez (Sp), *M Hoey

0839 and 1325 G Norman (Aus), M O'Meara (US), P McGinley

0850 and 1336 B Langer (Ger), S Flesch (US), B Rumford (Aus)

0901 and 1347 A Cabrera (Arg), T Woods (US), T Levet (Fr)

0912 and 1358 A Coltart, M Campbell (NZ), JP Hayes (US)

0923 and 1409 D Duval (US), J M Olazabal (Sp), S Elkington (Aus)

0934 and 1420 S Appleby (Aus), F Couples (US), C Montgomerie

0945 and 1431 J Furyk (US), D Clarke, P O'Malley (Aus)

0956 and 1442 P Lawrie, D Toms (US), G Player (SA)

1007 and 1453 R Mediate (US), P Fulke (Swe), D Frost (SA)

1018 and 1504 B Gay (US), D Lee, S Leaney (Aus)

1029 and 1515 B Andrade (US), F Jacobson (Swe), G Turner (NZ)

1040 and 1526 D Chand (Fiji), G Ogilvy (Aus), G Brand Jnr

1051 and 1537 N Sato (Japan), O Karlsson (Swe), A Balicki (Fr)

1102 and 1548 M Wiebe (US), G Birch, *J Kemp

1113 and 1559 D Wilson (US), W Riley (Aus), M Sanders

1124 and 1610 C Paulson (US), *D Dixon, P Curry

1135 and 1621 M Pilkington, M Brier (Aut), G Rankin

1146 and 0700 N Fasth (Swe), J Kelly (US), T Taniguchi (Japan)

1157 and 0711 J Van de Velde (Fr), A Cejka (Ger), J Aguero (Sp)

1208 and 0722 S Hoch (US), J Parnevik (Swe), T Odate (Japan)

1219 and 0733 N Price (Zim), L Westwood, *J Quinney (US)

1230 and 0744 J Daly (US), T Teshima (Japan), E Romero (Arg)

1241 and 0755 P Mickelson (US), R Allenby (Aus), N Faldo

1252 and 0806 M Brooks (US), M Weir (Can), R Jacquelin (Fr)

1303 and 0817 R Goosen (SA), F Lickliter (US), B Lane

1314 and 0828 L Roberts (US), A Oldcorn, P Lonard (Aus)

1325 and 0839 V Singh (Fiji), T Watson (US), A Scott (Aus)

1336 and 0850 J Coceres (Arg), T Lehman (US), R Karlsson (Swe)

1347 and 0901 C Perry (US), S Jones (US), R Sabbatini (SA)

1358 and 0912 S Garcia (Sp), B May (US), J Bickerton

1409 and 0923 C Pavin, B Vaughan (SA), M Gronberg (Swe)

1420 and 0934 D Love (US), G Orr, B Mayfair (US)

1431 and 0945 S Lyle, D Waldorf (US), M McNulty (Zim)

1442 and 0956 S Cink (US), B Estes (US), S Kjeldsen (Den)

1453 and 1007 S Ballesteros (Sp), C DiMarco (US), A Baddeley (Aus)

1504 and 1018 S Verplank (US), H Stenson (Swe), B Charles (NZ)

1515 and 1029 M Gogel (US), T Jacklin, J Maggert (US)

1526 and 1040 B Chamblee (US), G Owen, S Vale

1537 and 1051 J Ogilvie (US), S Hansen (Den), M Cort

1548 and 1102 N Ozaki (Japan), *M Griffiths, M McGuire

1559 and 1113 K Sutherland (US), M Ilonen (Fin), N Green (Aus)

1610 and 1124 D Smail (NZ), S Callan, *S Wilson

1621 and 1135 R Green (Aus), R Coles, N Vanhootegem (Bel)

* denotes amateur

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