Retief Goosen clinches win on marathon day
While this wasn't a major championship, it surely was one of those long, exhausting days that separates the great players from the good ones.
It made sense, then, that Retief Goosen finished the long afternoon holding the winner's trophy.
The Goose overcame Brandt Jobe down the stretch and outlasted the rest of the field over 36 grueling holes Sunday to win The International and become the last member of the Big Five to make it into the win column this season.
To this point, Goosen experienced a few disappointments, including the U.S. Open and British Open. But with this win, he got a $900,000 payoff and the perfect boost into next week's PGA Championship, the season's final major.
"I wouldn't say I lost confidence," Goosen said of the 81 and 74 he shot in the final rounds of the Opens. "But I was disappointed in the way I played. At some stage, you figure the tide is going to turn."
Goosen scored 15 points over the final two rounds to finish with 32, one better than Jobe, in the Modified Stableford scoring system, which awards five points for eagles, two for birdies, none for pars and deducts one for bogeys.
Jeff Brehaut opened the final round with four straight birdies to get in contention and finished third with 29 points. Big-hitting Hank Kuehne was fourth and Charles Howell finished fifth.
Although Goosen has played well enough to be ranked fifth in the world, he was without a victory this year.
The first 36-hole finish on tour since September 2003 -- this one played at mile-high altitude on the hilly, 7,619-yard Castle Pines course -- really did turn into a complete mental and physical test.
"My legs started feeling like jelly," said Goosen, who figured he drank a bottle of water per hole over the final 18. "It felt like a marathon, where you just can't go anymore."
As the day wore on, and fatigue set in, the shot-making suffered.
It forced Goosen to put his typically methodical spin on what is often one of the more exciting events on Tour. He hit safely into the par-5 17th green for a two-putt birdie, then saved par on No. 18 with a 4-foot putt after hitting his approach into the second cut of fringe.
Jobe, meanwhile, who earned recognition as this week's Crestor Charity Challenge winner for his 54-hole lead, could have won the tournament with a birdie on No. 18, but his chances were hurt when he teed off into the rough. His second shot landed 30 feet from the cup and when he left the birdie putt short, he put his hand on his hip and looked down, bemoaning the great opportunity lost.
"It felt like a marathon," Jobe said. "It didn't have a lot of feel to it and I'm a player who likes to play on feel."
Jobe made four straight birdies -- three to close his third round and one to start his fourth -- to take a nine-point lead early in the afternoon. But he closed with four bogeys and one double over the last 17 holes to wind up short of his first win on the PGA Tour.
"It was a great week. I did play some great golf," Jobe said. "But I played nine terrible holes in the afternoon round."
Goosen left the door open.
He teed off into the rough on four of the final nine holes, but made six pars, two bogeys and one birdie to hang on for his sixth career win on the PGA Tour and first this season. Ernie Els, another member of the Big Five, hasn't won yet on Tour this season, but he has won three times in Europe.
"At some stage, I was sort of wondering where my golf was going," Goosen said. "I started practicing more than I used to. I started working harder on my putting than I normally do and that started paying off."
Maybe Goosen's best shot of the day was a simple recovery from deep grass on the par-3 16th after a poor tee shot left him about 40 yards from the hole. Goosen pitched out to 4 feet, saved par and maintained a one-point lead.
While the finish for Jobe may have been disappointing, Brehaut wouldn't say the same. He earned $340,000 for this, his second straight top-10 finish, meaning he has almost certainly averted an 11th career trip to Q-school in the upcoming offseason.
Sunday evening, after 12 hours and 36 holes of golf, wasn't really time to celebrate, though.
"It's been a long week," Brehaut said. "I'm tired and I'm ready to go home."
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