Wed, Nov 10, 2004 - Page 19 News List

`The Goose' high-steps past slow Tiger

GREAT YEAR South African Retief Goosen, reigning US Open champion, finished his season in magnificent manner by capturing the Tour Championship on Sunday

AFP AND REUTERS , ATLANTA, GEORGIA AND TOKYO

Retief Goosen, of South Africa, poses with the trophy after winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Goosen shot a 6-under 64 to finish four shots ahead of second-place finisher Tiger Woods.

PHOTO: AP

Tiger Woods squandered a lead on the final round of a PGA event for only the third time in his career, allowing South Africa's Retief Goosen to win the Tour Championship by four strokes on Sunday.

Fast-closing Goosen, the reigning US Open champion, was four strokes behind co-leaders Woods and Jay Haas when the day began. But he fired a final round six-under par 64, the day's low score, to finish 72 holes on 11-under par 269.

"It's great to finish the season off this way. It has been a great year," Goosen said.

A disappointed Woods had won 30 of 32 prior times when he held the lead heading into the final round on the PGA Tour.

"Very disappointed. It was a golden opportunity to win a tournament," Woods said. "Four shots ahead, I was looking forward to shooting something in the 60s to win the tournament. But obviously that didn't happen.

"I feel very bad. I feel like I should have won the tournament," he said.

The last time he led after 54 holes but failed to win was the 2000 Tour Championship, when Phil Mickelson won the crown. The only prior time was in 1996 when Ed Fiori denied then-rookie Woods his first title at Quad Cities.

"I started out good and just putted like a blind man," Woods said. "I could hit the ball or putt but I could never get both at the same time. I looked up on the board and Goose is making birdie after birdie and I said, `Where are you going, bro?'"

Goosen opened and closed the front nine with birdies, adding another at the third, to move into contention. A run of three birdies in four holes starting at the 13th lifted him atop the leaderboard.

"In a way I like to hang around under the radar," he said. "I just show up and play and hopefully on Sunday pick up the check and go home.

"Tiger and Vijay and Ernie [Els] are in a different league with the amount of tournaments they've won. I have to win a few more to get into that stature," he said.

Woods struggled to bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes, ending his hopes of catching Goosen. After taking bogeys on three of the first seven holes, Woods birdied three of the next eight holes but could not catch Goosen.

"At the start of the day I thought 11-under or 12-under [would win]," Goosen said. "When I saw Tiger and Jay got off to a bad start I thought 9-under would be a good score."

Newlywed Woods displayed improved form over much of his season, which included only one triumph. That came in February at the World Golf Championships Match Play Championship.

"I was fighting my swing a little bit today," said Woods. "I knew what I was doing and I fixed it with most of my irons, but I had more of a difficult time with the longer game."

Woods said success was near, just as he has been saying throughout a difficult season.

"Overall, it was a very successful week, as far as progressing in the right direction, but ultimately it was disappointing too," Woods said.

"Things are headed in the right direction. It was a big step for me to understand what my problems were early in the round, rectify them and get back and give myself a great chance to win. I didn't win but at least I turned it around."

Haas, an American trying for his first title since 1993, faded on the front nine and went double bogey-bogey at 16 and 17 to end his hopes.

"My putter just went south toward the end of the round. I just had no touch, no feel," Haas said. "I couldn't hit it well enough to get away with anything."

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