When Retief Goosen arrived in County Kildare, he felt like a man who wished he was somewhere else. "I don't think I'm ready to play this week and perhaps I should have taken another week off,'' he said last Wednesday. "I'm hoping to take it easy and have a nice stroll around.''
The South African, of course, strolled around the K Club in exemplary fashion, to add the Smurfit European Open Championship to the US Open title he won at Shinnecock Hills two weeks ago. In successive tournaments, Goosen has banked nearly £1m, which is more than he won in his first five years on the European tour.
It was a remarkable double act and nobody could get close to the unflappable leader during the final round yesterday, in what turned out to be a wild Goosen chase for the best of the rest. Leading by one stroke after the third round, he finished five shots clear of the Englishman Lee Westwood and the Australians Richard Green and Peter O'Malley.
Goosen, who returned to the top of the Volvo Order of Merit with his 11th victory on the European tour, compiled a flawless 68 yesterday, which put him at 13 under par for the championship. It was as close to a walk in the park, in the presence of 25,000 spectators, as he could have hoped for and he even allowed himself a smile at the end of another exceptional week.
"It is the guys who cope under pressure and hit the right shots that win,'' he said. "You're always under pressure, it's part of the game.'' He could have fooled us.
What is certain is that he will not travel to Troon for the Open championship next week, because of tiredness. "The last time I played there was in 1997. I like the course and I'm looking forward to going back. I think my better golf will come later in my career now that I've started to learn more about the game. I'm looking forward to the next 10 years. I feel I can pull off another couple of majors," he said.
Goosen had 10 days off after his triumph at Long Island, New York, and the European Open was only his sixth event on the Tour this season. Yesterday morning he withdrew from the Barclays Scottish Open, which starts at Loch Lomond on Thursday.
Justin Rose produced one of the rounds of the week, a brilliant 65 containing 10 birdies. He failed by a stroke to secure a place in the Open in international qualifying at Sunningdale last week and has a final chance of making the field for Troon when he plays in the Scottish Open. Green, O'Malley and the Frenchman Jean-Francois Remesy did enough here to book their places in the Open.
On a course designed by Arnold Palmer, the final hole, which has been christened Swan Island - they must have rejected Swan Lake - is one of Arnie's more memorable creations. There seems to be more water than terra firma, a lake dominating the par five dogleg.
Most par fives are looked upon as birdie or eagle opportunities, but not this one. Peter Hedblom, the Swede, in the third round had an 11 there, but at least he learned from the baptism. The same could not be said of the Scot Alastair Forsyth. He had a quadruple bogey nine there in the third round and had the same score yesterday.
At this rate, people who pay good money to play Swan Island will be able to walk to the green on a bed of a million Titleists.
European Open (Dublin) Leading final scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 275 R Goosen (SA) 69 66 72 68. 280 R Green (Aus) 70 78 66 66; L Westwood 69 69 71 71; P O'Malley (Aus) 72 70 68 70. 281 J M Lara (Spa) 73 68 67 73; M Lafeber (Ned) 67 70 75 69. 283 D Howell 69 72 75 67. 284 A Cabrera (Arg) 72 73 72 67; S Kjeldsen (Den) 71 75 69 69. 285 P McGinley 70 71 71 73; T Jaidee (Tha) 72 72 69 72; N O'Hern (Aus) 67 72 72 74; P Broadhurst 67 74 69 75. Selected: 286 J Rose 73 76 72 65. 287 J Parnevik (Swe) 72 73 75 67. 293 P Harrington 70 76 76 71; N Faldo 74 72 74 73. 302 I Woosnam 75 74 78 75.Reuse content