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Temperament key to Goosen's success

Goosen looking to join the golfing elite

The 2005 season on the PGA Tour begins with much focus on the ``Big Four,'' which sets up an interesting debate.

Who's the fourth?

Most everyone would agree that Vijay Singh, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els are the three best players in golf. Masters champion Phil Mickelson seems like a good candidate to fill out the foursome, but that would be ignoring Retief Goosen.

That happens frequently to the quiet South African.

Goosen has won each of the last four years on the PGA Tour, including two U.S. Open titles. He has risen to No. 4 in the world ranking, narrowly ahead of Mickelson to start the year.

``I think looking at a guy like Retief is like a stranger looking at Manhattan -- you don't realize how tall the buildings are until you go there,'' Joey Sindelar said. ``Retief is a long hitter with a beautiful, fabulous, slow swing, and nobody even talks about him.''

That's OK with Goosen.

He heard all the cheers for Mickelson when he was beating him at Shinnecock Hills, just like he did at East Lake when he ended the year with a rare comeback against Woods in the Tour Championship.

``I don't let things like that upset me,'' Goosen said. ``People have their opinions, and maybe that's the way it is. Phil has won quite a few tournaments. I think I've shown I can make a few putts when I need them.''

Goosen was the first to admit he wasn't in the same league with Singh, Woods and Els after winning the Tour Championship, saying he needed a few more years of winning big tournaments.

``They've been on Tour here a little bit longer than me and people know them a little bit better, so I think a couple more years of good play, it might be a different story,'' he said.

Goosen doesn't draw much attention to himself, but he does not go unnoticed by his peers.

``Very, very underrated,'' Woods said.

``He just goes around the world and does his job,'' David Toms said. ``He's not in anyone's face. They don't put him on TV. And maybe he likes it that way. But all the players know how good he is.''

Asked about the ``Big Four,'' Goosen smiled and came up with a solution.

``Maybe it should be the Big Five,'' he said.

Whatever the case, it will be a long time before all of them are together.

Mickelson is not playing the winners-only Mercedes Championships. Goosen won't be at Torrey Pines. Els is skipping the Match Play Championship. The best bet to see them in the same tournament probably will be The Players Championship.

By then, golf's elite group could be even larger -- or smaller.


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