South Africa’s Retief Goosen coped with lightning fast greens at Innisbrook to win the Transitions Championship by a single shot from Brett Quigley and Charles Howell III. It was his first victory on the PGA Tour since 2005.
The putting surfaces had become so dry and crusty over the weekend that they were reminiscent of those at Shinnecock Hills in 2004 where Goosen’s superb putting took him to the US Open title.
“You’re in the back of the tub trying to stop it short of the drain.” Eventual runner-up Brett Quigley said of the greens.
It looked as though Goosen’s chance might have gone mid-way through the final round but he fought back manfully, he chipped in from behind the ninth green then made a crucial eagle at the 11th.
The South African then held a steady nerve through the back nine, holing a clutch of saving putts and making a superb up-and-down on the 17th to keep the advantage down the closing hole.
Even then, things weren’t secured for the 40-year-old. Two solid shots saw him find the green in regulation at the closing hole and he had two-putts for victory. But when he raced the first putt five feet past the cup, the win didn’t look so certain. For Goosen, it brought back memories of the 2001 US Open when he three putted the last green from 12 feet.
“It was disappointing to hit it that far past. I didn’t want to have another U.S. Open there,” he said.
He didn’t. He calmly stroked home the par effort to take the title by a shot from Brett Quigley and Charles Howell III. Howell had been tied for the lead with four holes remaining but he made back-to-back bogeys at the 15th and 16th. He’ll have to win at either Bay Hill or the Shell Houston Open to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 2002.
With the win Goosen goes to fifth on the FedEx Cup standings and climbs to 22nd on the Official World Golf Ranking.
Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club, Florida
Mar 19-22, purse $5,400,000, par 71
1 Retief Goosen (RSA) 69 68 69 70 276 $972,000
T2 Charles Howell III (USA) 71 66 71 69 277 $475,200
T2 Brett Quigley (USA) 73 68 68 68 277 $475,200
T4 Matthew Goggin (Aus) 67 74 70 67 278 $223,200
T4 Steve Stricker (USA) 69 67 73 69 278 $223,200
T4 Charlie Wi (Kor) 68 73 68 69 278 $223,200
7 Steve Flesch (USA) 71 67 72 69 279 $180,900
T8 Stuart Appleby (Aus) 70 67 71 72 280 $151,200
T8 Tom Lehman (USA) 68 69 68 75 280 $151,200
T8 Kevin Na (USA) 70 72 71 67 280 $151,200
T8 Bo Van Pelt (USA) 71 72 71 66 280 $151,200
Note: Players in bold signifies Titleist ball usage only