CAPE TOWN – South African golf legend Retief Goosen turned 50 this week, which means he can now “print his own money” on the PGA Tour Champions in America.
“Goose” will make his debut in the $1,7 million Oasis Championship in Florida starting tomorrow, and will tee up alongside fellow veteran luminaries like Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie and John Daly.
The tour is not only lucrative but for the most part there are no cuts, so there’s a guaranteed cheque every week. And because golf lends itself to longevity, these guys can still play.
For most of us, turning 50 is a not-so-gentle reminder that we are indeed mortal and time is fast running out. For top professional golfers fortunate enough to be exempt on the PGA Tour Champions, though, 50 is a kind of stay of execution – a new beginning almost. It gives that golfer a good number of years to remain competitive and, as the saying goes, “print your own money”.
“I’m really chuffed,” says Goosen. “To compete against these ‘old’ guys who can still shoot the lights out is not only going to be a challenge but hopefully a lot of fun too.”
Hundreds and thousands of over-50s try and almost to the man fail to qualify for the PGA Tour Champions each year. It’s that competitive, that exclusive, it’s almost a closed shop. But because of his impressive record in world golf, including two US Open wins, close to 40 victories in the paid ranks, and his World Golf Hall of Fame status, Goosen is fully exempt and eligible to play in the 27 Champions events that remain between now and December.
And the Polokwane-born sweet swinger is still strong and healthy, with him making 10 cuts as a competitive 49-year-old on the regular PGA Tour last year against the “young guys”, with a best finish of tied sixth at the St Jude Classic – one of four top-25s in the season.
And if there was one triumph that defined Goosen’s career, it was the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, New York.
It was a Major that, in the final round, turned out to be a two-man race between him and Phil Mickelson, with Mickelson leading. America were convinced their beloved Phil would win, but Goose had other ideas.
“Go Phil, go Phil – you’re the man! Everybody’s with you, Phil!” hollered the many thousands packed behind the ropes to witness their ever-smiling hero “Phil The Thrill” capture his second straight Major just a couple of months after outgunning Ernie Els by a stroke in the Masters.
But Goosen – with an astonishing 11 one-putt greens in the round of his life – outgunned the American to seal victory by two on two-under-par 276 on a course so difficult that only Goosen and Mickelson were able to break par for the week.