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Goosen debuts as PGA Tour member

Retief Goosen still isn't a recognizable face on the PGA Tour, despite his memorable playoff win in the U.S. Open just two months ago.

He was turned away from the clubhouse at Warwick Hills on both Monday and Tuesday this week while preparing for the Buick Open.

The South African didn't yet have the PGA Tour money clip players usually have on their belts as a means of identification because this will be his first start as a member of the tour.

That all changed Wednesday as Goosen finally had the gold ``2001 PGA Tour Member'' money clip and no longer needed an escort to get in the clubhouse.

``It was nice to be able to walk in the clubhouse to get a drink,'' Goosen joked.

Goosen went from being the subject of jokes to U.S. Open champion at Southern Hills in June.

He was 12 feet and two putts away from winning his first major on the 72nd hole, then had to make a 3-footer just to make the playoff.

Goosen recovered enough mentally and physically to beat Mark Brooks by two strokes in an 18-hole playoff the next day. The PGA European Tour star was able to play in that tournament because he had tied for 12th at last year's U.S. Open.

He informed the PGA Tour last week that he wanted to join it. Goosen plans to play in the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club next week and the WGC-NEC Invitational in Akron, Ohio, the following week.

``We decided to join for this year to see if I can maybe get enough money to get into The Tour Championship at the end of this year,'' Goosen said, referring to the tournament that includes the top 30 players on the PGA money list. ``That was one of my goals.''

Goosen will continue playing on the European tour this season and hopes to play on both tours next year.

Buick endorser Tiger Woods chose not play in the Buick Open after tournament officials, expecting him to appear, decided to put his face on billboards.

Seventeen of the top 30 players on the money list, including second-ranked Phil Mickelson, and 24 of the top 50 in the world golf rankings will compete for a $3.1 million purse this week.

Defending champion Rocco Mediate, who won with a 20-under-par 268 last year, believes he's healthy enough to finish the tournament. Back problems have forced him to withdraw after one round at two events since finishing fourth at the U.S. Open.

Some players will use the Buick Open as a tuneup for the PGA Championship. Others will hope to get in a better position to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will be named after the PGA Championship.

The top 10 finishers on the Ryder Cup points list automatically make it while captain Curtis Strange selects two players to make up the 12-man team.

``I think in the back of all of our minds is the Ryder Cup and the PGA Championship,'' said Jim Furyk, who is 11th on the points list.

Heath Slocum earned an immediate promotion to the PGA Tour on Sunday with his victory at the Omaha Classic, his third Buy.com Tour win of the year. Slocum earned a ``battlefield promotion,'' and joined Chris Smith as the only players to accomplish the feat.

``It is a bigger production,'' Slocum said, ``but once you get inside the ropes on Thursday, it's just golf.''

It will be golf in desert-like conditions in Grand Blanc, which is about 70 miles north of Detroit.

During Wednesday's Pro-Am, temperatures reached 97 and the heat index was 106. The same conditions are forecast for Thursday and Friday before the temperatures are expected to drop into the 80s over the weekend.

``I grew up in this,'' said Goosen, who was born in Pietersburg, South Africa. ``But it's definitely different than England, where I've been the last nine years.''

Goosen has been resting and practicing the past two weeks.

In his last outing, Goosen and Ian Woosnam teamed to win the SAS Invitational.

After winning the U.S. Open on June 18, he tied for sixth at the European Open, won the Scottish Open and finished tied for 13th at the British Open.

``It's great to be back,'' said Goosen, who missed the cut at the Buick Open in 1997. ``I'm a little bit nervous, but I am looking forward to the week. I have had a couple weeks off now to think about it all, so I am here now ready to play again.''

 


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