US Open
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US Open 2005
Ernie Els seeking third US Open title
Pinehurt's greens will be key challenge
Reteif Goosen quietly confident of chances
Padraig Harrington says Pinehurst harder than Augusta
Pinehurst will prove to be a tough test
USGA promise a fair test for US Open
Tiger Woods in confident mood
Phil Mickelson returns to a special Pinehurst
Padraig Harrington hoping to break through
Payne Stewart's image on 72nd hole flag
Retief Goosen looking for title defence
Payne Stewart forever linked to Pinehurst
Tiger Woods set on new records
Leading contenders for the 2005 US Open

Retief Goosen looking for title defence

Retief Goosen has played the role of the forgotten fifth Beatle to perfection lately but next Thursday there will be no avoiding the spotlight as the unassuming South African opens the defence of his U.S. Open title.

While the so-called Fab Four of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson have topped the charts this season with three wins apiece, Goosen is still searching for his first success on either side of the Atlantic on both the European and PGA Tours.

"It's been fairly consistent, but not winning," said Goosen, U.S. Open champion in 2001 and 2004. "I think my golf at the moment is a little inconsistent, I throw in a bad round in the four rounds and it's really costing me a chance to win on Sunday.

"I sort of feel like my swing is coming back, I started hitting a few better shots a couple of weeks ago."

With four top-10 results, including third-place finishes at the U.S. Masters and WGC world match play, Goosen has hit his best form at the season's biggest events and remains confident ahead of the year's second major at North Carolina's Pinehurst Resort No. 2 course, ranked among the toughest golfing tests in the world.

In keeping with it reputation and tradition of being the most demanding test in golf, the U.S. Open is set to once again leave the players cursing and muttering in exasperation as it did last year at Shinnecock, where a howl of complaints about the course setup were still being heard months later.

During the final round at Shinnecock no player broke par and 28 shot more than 80, making the world's elite look like weekend duffers.

Goosen, though, had few complaints when he needed 11 putts over the final holes to clinch his second U.S. Open title with a two-stroke victory over Mickelson.

"I think Shinnecock was a good setup, it was just the weather on the weekend that made some of the holes pretty impossible; the greens got so hard and dry that the balls weren't stopping," said Goosen, during a teleconference from the Booz Allen Classic in Maryland where he was making final preparations for his U.S. Open defence.

"It's a fine balance. Sometimes the players feel...they've gotten a little close to the edge on some of the holes and I'm sure next week there are going to be a few holes close to the edge.

"But that's how these tournaments are, they want to see something around par win."

With treacherous greens that have been described as upside-down salad bowls or turtle shells, putting will once again be at a premium at Pinehurst No. 2.

Goosen has some idea of what awaits him in North Carolina and is expecting the same type of demanding layout he won on last year.

"I played there in 1999 when Payne (Stewart) won so I know the course fairly well," said Goosen, who failed to make the cut that year. "I'm looking forward to going back.

"I played rubbish last time I was there but this time I'm hoping to play a lot better.

"I've heard it's fairly reminiscent of Shinnecock in the areas around the greens, the run-offs.

"That's the way it was last time. Pretty much every green is raised with run-off areas. I heard it hasn't changed.

"Obviously to go back and defend a U.S. Open is always nice, but I'm looking forward to doing a little better there than I did last time.

"I have a little more experience this time."