/ 22 April 2008

Revamped Goosen getting his groove back

Two-time US Open winner Retief Goosen has returned to Asia quietly confident he is finally getting his groove back after a frustrating 18 months trying to reshape his swing.

The laid-back South African famously won his two Majors without a coach and then suffered a drop in form last year after deciding to hire a mentor in an effort to improve his backswing.

But he has come to Shanghai for the BMW Asian Open, starting on Thursday, happy that he has at long last gained control of his revamped swing, which carried him to an equal 17th finish at the Masters in the United States this month.

”I think I am playing fairly good golf. Better than last year,” Goosen said on Tuesday at the Tomson Pudong Shanghai Golf Club, where the $2,3-million tournament will be played.

”I have been playing a lot lately and that is one way of improving. I feel my game has been getting more consistent so I am looking forward to a good week.”

Goosen said one factor in his improvement this year was playing more tournaments, so he could build trust in his swing under pressure, rather than simply hitting thousands of practice balls.

”It’s never easy making changes … this year I decided to play a little bit more and work on those things and try and groove it on a golf course instead of staying on a driving range,” he said.

Regardless of his form, Goosen is confident that South African golf has a great future, after he and three-time Major winner Ernie Els have flown their country’s flag for so many years.

Trevor Immelman’s victory at the Masters is the most obvious reason for optimism, and Goosen also pointed to world number 12 Rory Sabbatini.

However, Goosen said there was a much deeper talent pool in South Africa waiting to emerge once they are given the opportunity.

”The economy is struggling a little bit [in South Africa]. But there are a lot of good players. We have a lot of good golf courses in South Africa,” he said.

”Once the guys manage to make it out here and start earning some money to afford to play more, we are going to see a lot of good players.”

Goosen is one of the banner attractions at the BMW Asian Open, which is co-sanctioned by the European and Asian tours.

The other Major winners here are Australia’s Greg Norman and New Zealand’s Michael Campbell, while world number 13 Henrik Stenson from Sweden has the highest ranking. — AFP