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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Even in victory, Goosen had difficulty applying finishing touch

 •  South African wins U.S. Open in playoff

Longtime Maui resident Mark Rolfing, an NBC golf analyst at the U.S. Open, chronicles his observations of the tournament for The Advertiser.

By Mark Rolfing
Special to The Advertiser

TULSA, Okla. — Well, it's finally over and Retief Goosen is the champion of the 101st U.S. Open. It was an exciting but strange week from beginning to end. Goosen played better than Mark Brooks yesterday and deserved to win. This will certainly be a tremendous boost to his career.

If someone would have told Brooks he could have a score of 72 before he teed off yesterday, I think he would have taken it. But it turned out to not be good enough. Only six out of 41 playoff rounds in the entire history of the U.S. Open have been better than Goosen's 70 yesterday.

I felt that there would be more pressure on Brooks going into the playoff. He started well and was one-under early in the round but then began to fade. When he made bogeys at 7, 9 and 10, and Goosen birdied two of them, the U.S. Open was all but over.

Even though Goosen won the U.S. Open, I still think he will have some kind of a label based on his finishes the past two days. Sunday, of course, he participated in the greatest debacle ever at a finishing hole in the U.S. Open — three-putting from 12 feet to allow the playoff. Yesterday, he also needed three putts at 18, although one came from 30 yards down the fairway. He bogeyed the last two holes.

As time passes, I believe there are a few players who will feel even more pain about what happened at this U.S. Open . . . such as Stewart Cink, David Duval and Phil Mickelson.

Cink missing a two-foot putt on No. 18 Sunday will be replayed so many times that he will constantly be reminded of how close he came to winning the U.S. Open. Duval and Mickelson will look back and realize that with Tiger Woods out of contention, they both had a great chance to shed their "never won a major" label. Neither could cope with the pressure and produce.

I hope Dean Wilson isn't feeling any pain. I think the Castle High graduate had a great championship. His score of 288 beat many of the best players in the world. His highest single-round score was 74 and he cashed a check for $30,055. This performance should be a great boost for his confidence.

I'm already looking forward to the 2002 U.S. Open. The reviews on our coverage on ESPN and NBC this week have been very good. Yes, newspapers and magazines even do report cards on the announcers at the U.S. Open. There really is quite a bit of pressure.

Next year's tournament will be played at Bethpage State Park in New York, a true public course. I think it's a reflection of how the game of golf has changed over the past five years. Who had the biggest influence on that change? Tiger Woods. Who will win the U.S. Open next year? Who do you think?