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Retief Goosen back to normal in Europe

Slowly, Retief Goosen is settling into a routine again.

He has heard from Nelson Mandela and been congratulated by South African President Thabo Mbeki since winning the U.S. Open just over two weeks ago.

``Mr. Mandela said, 'Well done, well played.' He said he hoped I would bring the money back to South Africa and invest it.''

But now Goosen -- who earned $900,000 for his victory in Tulsa, Okla. -- must tend to the business of golf once more, beginning with this week's European Open at The K Club outside Dublin.

``I think I'm back down on the planet again,'' he said.

Goosen beat Mark Brooks in an 18-hole playoff to capture his first major title.

He could have settled matters a day earlier at Southern Hills but he missed a 2 1/2 -foot putt to win on the final regulation hole. He then made a 3-footer to get into the playoff in which he beat Brooks by two shots.

``I haven't thought about the three-putt as much as everyone else seems to have thought about it,'' Goosen said Wednesday. ``It was just another three-putt. All right, it was to win the U.S. Open, but if it had happened on the 17th it wouldn't have been so bad.

``I was the unlucky guy who three-putted last, but it hasn't really affected me as much as people think it should.''

For the rest of this year, Goosen plans to stay on the European Tour. He will play world tour events in the United States and the Grand Slam in Hawaii, as well as one or two others.

His plans for next year are not set. Goosen said he spoke with friend and compatriot Ernie Els, who has won two U.S. Opens.

``Ernie feels I should support both tours and I shouldn't rush over to America,'' he said.

Goosen also wants to speak with Paul Lawrie, Scotland's surprise winner of the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie, ``to hear what he experienced in his time and see if I can learn anything from that.''

Lawrie has not won since his playoff victory over Jean Van de Velde and Justin Leonard two years ago.

Colin Montgomerie leads the list of Europeans awaiting Goosen this week. The Scotsman is coming off a five-shot victory in the Irish Open.

``I'm still playing well so I can only hope it continues,'' Montgomerie said. ``I want to build on that performance, not just win there then finish 30th here. It would be lovely to win twice in Ireland. That is the goal right now and that's why I'm here.''

 


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