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Open champ toughs it out

Retief Goosen climbs into contention after a poor start, refusing to follow quitters off the course.

By BOB HARIG
Published March 20, 2005


ORLANDO - In a game filled with frustration, finding the desire to push through adversity can be difficult, even for the best players in the world.

And when things have really gone awry, the easy way out is to give up, pack it in. After all, another tournament awaits next week, another payday is down the road. Why beat yourself up?

There are plenty of examples of such thinking at the Bay Hill Invitational, where rain followed by cold weather has made for a long week on a tough Bay Hill course.

Then there is two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen, who shook off calamity and has made a remarkable recovery, giving himself an outside shot at winning the weather-delayed tournament.

Goosen opened with 78 and rebounded with 67 and 68.

"Well, I knew I could play better than that," said Goosen, who trailed tournament clubhouse leader Kenny Perry by six strokes. "So I had to come and try to prove myself a little bit. It gives you an opportunity to work on your game and try to find out what happened. You know, with important tournaments coming up, I'm working on a few things and hopefully I'll be ready come Augusta (for the Masters)."

Perry, who has not won since 2003 when he captured three tournaments, was 9 under par through 11 holes of his third round. Stephen Ames was a stroke back, followed by Vijay Singh and K.J. Choi at 7 under. They were scheduled to complete the third round this morning. The players then will be regrouped and begin the fourth round off the first and 10th tees.

It would have been easy for Goosen to say enough is enough. He hit two balls out of bounds, opened the tournament with a front-nine 42 and was in 97th place. With his Lake Nona home 30 minutes away, a weekend on the couch with some of golf's biggest tournaments ahead would not have been the worst fate.

But instead of getting down, Goosen got to work. He shot the best round of the tournament, 5-under 67, in a second round that he concluded Saturday morning. And he managed to get himself on the leaderboard Saturday afternoon despite two late bogeys. He finished at 213, 3 under par.

"That tells you about a guy that's really a good player and who has all the things you need to play the game," tournament host Arnold Palmer said. "I'm very pleased and proud when someone does something like that."

There were several players who withdrew from the tournament when faced with a similar predicament.

Australia's Mark Hensby was 9 over par for his first round when he hit his tee shot out of bounds at the 18th and simply quit. Palmer called that "unprofessional." Others such as Dudley Hart, Scott Hoch and Aaron Oberholser withdrew after high scores, although they cited injuries.

If Goosen were upset with his opening-round 78, you'd have a hard time knowing. The low-key South African, who said he was battling a cold, has made a name for himself by showing little emotion and saying very little.

But he was hard to miss when he was paired for the first two rounds with No. 1-ranked Tiger Woods and No. 3 Ernie Els, both of whom fell out of contention.

"That was impressive," Woods said of Goosen's 67. "He made a bogey and still shot that. That was impressive for him to go out there, and not feeling his best, and all of a sudden turn it around and get it going."