Goosen puts the 'gimme' behind him

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The Independent Online

So it was 24 more hours in Tulsa, 18 more holes at Choklahoma. All those corporate types who had paid big bucks to play the course that tamed Tiger were kept outside the ropes as Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks took part in their play-off for the 101st United States Open at Southern Hills.

Goosen had not jumped out of his hotel bedroom during the night, Brooks found all his possessions in his locker, whence he had hurriedly returned them once Sunday night's mayhem at the 18th green had sunk in.

It was the putts that did not sink. First Brooks left his seven-footer fractionally short. Then Stewart Cink completely missed the hole from less than two feet, only later to realise what that had cost him. Then Goosen, with two putts to follow his countrymen Gary Player and Ernie Els in becoming the US Open champion, pushed the first two feet past and saw the one back touch the hole but stay out.

There have been tiny putts missed to lose a major championship, but perhaps never such a sequence of shocking three putts, each worse than the last. If Cink was kicking himself for not at least getting into the play-off, there were bigger names who had left town wondering how they had not even come close to winning or joining the play-off.

Tiger Woods is allowed an off major, although he overcame his first-round troubles to climb far enough up the leaderboard to finish just outside the top 10. But among those who plummeted in the opposite direction on Sunday, were Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, David Duval and Jim Furyk, who were a combined 28 over par.

The unheralded pair of Goosen and Brooks had no time to castigate themselves. Goosen, the 32-year-old from Johannesburg, has won four times in Europe but never previously been in the top 10 in a major. The 40-year-old Brooks, from Texas, had not won since claiming, in similarly inauspicious circumstances, the USPGA in 1996. That was the last major Woods did not play in for the simply reason that he had not yet turned professional.

As if the 18th on Sunday had never happened, Goosen continued to putt as beautifully as he had done for the first 71 holes. The South African got up and down five times on the front nine and holed from five feet at the sixth and 18 feet at the ninth for birdies. He had taken just 11 putts on the outward half and at two under led Brooks by three when the Texan had a bogey at the ninth after driving into the trees. After the 10th Goosen stretched his lead to five strokes.

The US Open is the last of the majors to maintain an 18-hole play-off. It used to be 36 holes, but in 1931 Billy Burke and George Von Elm were still tied so they had to have another 36 the next day, Burke winning by a single stroke.

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