Retief Goosen wins Hoag Classic by 4 shots – Press Enterprise

NEWPORT BEACH — With arguably the best finals group in the Hoag Classic’s 26-year history, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Lee Janzen – each winner of two US Opens – went in one shot to the first tee on Sunday at the Newport Beach Country Club as they entered the final lap of the Hoag Classic.

“That’s what we talked about in the locker room: three guys playing together with six US Open (titles),” Goosen said.

It wasn’t long before the fireworks went off.

Goosen and Els played aggressively, both hitting the driver on the 325-yard par 4, while Janzen served a mid-iron. Goosen hit the best tee shot, his ball finding the left green bunker about 20 yards from the hole.

On his second shot, Goosen splashed his wedge into the sand and watched his ball fly up towards the flagstick.

“It was a tricky bunker shot,” Goosen recalled, saying he had an awkward stance against the left lip with the ball under his feet. “I had to fly it over the ridge (to get to the upper level of the green). I figured if I got a good shot it would end five feet from the hole. . . . It just came out hotter than expected.”

Oops, he thought to himself.

As he tracked the flight of his shot, the next sound Goosen heard was his ball banging against the underside of the flagstick – before disappearing into the cup without ever touching the putting surface.

direct hit!

Goosen celebrated the Eagle 2 by hurling his wedge of sand in the air as the Greenside gallery erupted.

The surprise hole-out was just one shot, but it kick-started Goosen’s quick start en route to an excellent 8-under-63, four-shot win at the Hoag Classic over closest pursuer KJ Choi.

Goosen shot 68-67-63 for 54 holes 15-under overall to win his second PGA Tour Champions title in 61 events. Choi shot a 66 in the final round to finish second with 11-under, while Janzen (69) and Stephen Ames (67) finished fourth with 9-under. Els stumbled to a 2-over-73 and finished seventh.

The eagle on the opening hole leapt past Els, the second round leader and another South African World Golf Hall of Famer, and he never gave up the lead.

“That was very, very lucky,” Goosen said of his first-place hole. “Whenever you hit a pin, it can go anywhere. It could have come back from the green. This hole has treated me well this week, especially the first four or five holes.”

Goosen followed his eagle with birdies on the second par-4 and third par-5, marking the second straight day he started a round by playing the first four holes 4-under par.

“When you start like that, you know today is your day,” said Goosen, who received a $300,000 check for first place and advanced to third place in the Schwab Cup points race. “Each could have come to life and fallen off, so I just kept grinding.”

Turning after a front nine 30, Goosen had a four shot lead. Choi never got closer than three shots to the back nine. Goosen had a clean card until a three-putt bogey on a par-4 11, but that was the only blemish on a day in which he posted the lowest finals total by a Hoag Classic winner since Hale Irwin won with 62 shots 1998

“I’ve won pretty much all over the world, but this was the first time I’ve won on the West Coast,” said Goosen, a seven-time winner of the PGA Tour, including the US Open in 2001 and 2004. “It was a fun one day and a fun week.”

And in hindsight, it could have been won with an early dunk.


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