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Goosen set for Johnnie Walker defence

South African Retief Goosen will attempt to successfully defend his US$1.6 million Johnnie Walker Classic title this week but doesn't expect to repeat the same kind of fireworks that he produced last year.

Leading by 13 shots going into the final round the Springbok won by eight strokes at Lake Karrinyup Country Club, where he broke the course record in the second round with a nine-under-par 63.

Goosen went on to win the European Tour Order of Merit title for the second year in a row and this week marks his first event of the new season in Europe.

Said Goosen: "We start all over. I won't mind having the same lead again on Saturday but I think this year is going to be a little more bunched up. Because the greens are just that little bit slower, the scoring might be lower."

Fresh from two top four finishes on the US PGA Tour, Goosen's game is in good shape heading into the Johnnie Walker Classic, which is tri-sanctioned by the European, Australasian and Asian PGA Tours.

"I feel like I am playing quite nicely. I just have not been putting up to standard. Hopefully I can get my putting going and give myself a chance for the tournament," said Goosen.

On Tuesday the former US Open champion was seen discussing putting tactics on the practice green with Spain's Sergio Garcia.

"I know he (Garcia) has been struggling with his putting. We were exchanging ideas that might help us this week. Hopefully, what we talked about yesterday will help," said Goosen.

A host of other top players are competing this week including world number two Ernie Els from South Africa, England's Nick Faldo, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Paul Casey, Welshman Ian Woosnam, Denmark's Thomas Bjorn and Australians Adam Scott and Robert Allenby.

"Ernie is playing great. He is going to be the guy to beat again this week. I'm looking forward to going head-to-head with him again, hopefully on Sunday," added Goosen.

Els won the Johnnie Walker Classic when it was played at Hope Island in Australia in 1997. He has won four out of his last five events and says winning last year's British Open was the catalyst for his incredible run of form.

"Obviously winning a Major gives you a lot of confidence. I didn't play all that well after the Open for about a month or so but after that, and after Ben was born, I really started enjoying myself. The World Match Play (at Wentworth) was good and I really played some good golf there. But the whole thing changed for me at the Open," said Els.

Garcia, looking for his first victory in the Johnnie Walker Classic, had to withdraw from today's pro-am as a result of a strain to his left hamstring. The 23-year-old strained himself in yesterday's charity shoot out with some of the country's top AFL players but informed officials that he would be fit to play when the tournament tees-off on Thursday. The shoot out involved players having to hit balls and kick footballs through goal posts.


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