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21 Jun 2004 00:00
South Africa’s Retief Goosen won the 104th US Open on Sunday in a dramatic shoot-out with Masters’ champion Phil Mickelson.
Goosen, the US Open winner in 2001, closed with a one-over 71 to beat Mickelson by two shots. Mickelson, too, fired a final round one-over 71.
It was a nail-biting closing nine holes as the lead switched between the only two players left who refused to buckle under the punishing challenge that Shinnecock Hills threw at them.
Mickelson, looking for back-to-back majors, went in front when he birdied the par-five 16th.
But Goosen, the third-round leader and playing directly behind Mickelson, matched him and went to the par-three 17th all square.
It was on the 179-yard 17th that Mickelson’s dream was crushed.
All the while, Goosen was standing on the 17th tee watching the drama unfold.
The South African pulled his tee shot into the same bunker as Mickelson but splashed out to three feet and made no mistake with his par putt.
Only a rush of blood to the head could rob Goosen of his second US Open title and it never looked like coming as he drilled his drive down the 18th. A 9-iron to 20 feet from the pin left him three putts for victory—he only needed two.
It turned into a two man race when Goosen and Mickelson reached the turn. Goosen began the day with a two shot cushion but he was being challenged by a cluster of players all within striking distance on a course where bogeys can strike in an instant.
By the time Goosen and Mickelson two reached the turn, challengers Ernie Els, Fred Funk, Shigeki Maruyama, Tim Clark, Jeff Maggert and Mike Weir had all wilted over the punishing Shinnecock Hills course.
Els started the day three-under and eyeing a third US Open crown. When he walked off the seventh green he had fallen to one-over for the championship. A double bogey on the eighth and his victory chances were all but shot. Els finished with a mind-numbing 10-over 80 for the day and seven-over for the championship.
Funk saw himself plunging from two-under to three over. Weir dropped four shots by the time he reached the turn, Maruyama four and Maggert only one but four back from Goosen.
Tiger Woods’ Saturday dreams that he was firmly in with a chance, despite starting nine shots back, were quickly dashed as he reached the turn in four-over 39.
It did not get any better for the world number one as he continued to slip further and further back from the leaders.
An idea of what was in store came early in the morning when the championship was almost reduced to a farce when the infamous par-three seventh became all but unplayable.
After the first two groups went through, officials quickly decided to water the green between every group to make it playable.
The strong winds and sunshine had dried the green to near concrete and turned it into a lottery for the players.
Kevin Stadler was the first to play the hole on Sunday and he could only look in horror as his two-foot putt slid past the hole, kept rolling, and finally vanished off the green.
Stadler staggered off with a triple. Playing parnter JJ Henry had no better luck. He too had a triple bogey.
In the second group, Cliff Kresge also carded a triple. Playing partner Billy Mayfair managed a bogey.
Enough was enough.
The hoses were ordered in and play was delayed for 10 minutes as water was poured onto the putting surface.
An idea of the difficulty of the par-70 course was underlined by the early final scores—Trevor Immelman shot an 82, Billy Mayfair 89, Phillip Price 84, Craig Parry 85 and Alex Cejka 85. - Sapa-AFP
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