Originally created 06/15/02

Goosen among the big names gobbled up by Bethpage



FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Retief Goosen already turned in the U.S. Open trophy that belonged to him for the past year.

Now, he won't be around to see it passed off to the next guy on Sunday.

Soaked and miserable, Goosen finished two brutal days at the Bethpage Black Course with "14 over" written on his scorecard. Not exactly the way he wanted to end his reign as U.S. Open champion.

The laid-back South African held up so well a year ago after missing a 2-foot putt to win the Open on the 72nd hole at Southern Hills.

Instead of bemoaning the gaffe, Goosen got a good night of sleep and came back the next day to claim his first major title, beating Mark Brooks in an 18-hole playoff.

The Bethpage experience left him less amicable.

"I'm not interested in any questions right now," he said softly, brushing off a reporter before ducking into dry warmth of the clubhouse.

Goosen, heading home with an ugly 154 on the Black Course, wasn't the only one in a foul mood on a day better suited for a duck.

David Duval, who won the British Open last year, finished with an 11-over 151 and was in danger of missing the cut.

Ditto for Brooks, who won't come close to making another playoff after rounds of 75 and 78. Paul Azinger closed with an 82 and headed home at 17 over par.

"It's cold and wet and hard to hold the club," said Duval, who had a decent round going until he triple-bogeyed his next-to-last hole. "When you're not playing your greatest, you've got no chance."

Goosen shot himself out of contention with a 79 on Thursday, and any hope of making the cut ended Friday at the par-3 eighth, the same hole that wiped out his playing partner Duval.

Goosen drove his tee shot under a tree behind the green, nearly disappearing from view when he ducked into the limbs to get it out. With hardly any room to swing, he couldn't even reach the green with his punch-out.

The ball landed well short of the putting surface, gobbled up by the carnivorous rough. Goosen wound up with a triple bogey and finished with a 75.

He became the first defending champion to miss the cut since fellow South African Ernie Els in 1995.

Even so, it's not unusual for a returning winner to struggle in defense of his crown. Since 1991, only one golfer (Tiger Woods, of course) finished better than 40th the following year. Two others besides Els and Goosen have missed the cut.

Goosen was fighting even longer odds to win back-to-back Opens. The last player to win two straight was Curtis Strange in 1988-89; before that, it was Ben Hogan in 1950-51.

Woody Austin wasn't expected to contend, and he didn't even make the cut despite a brilliant final shot.

After holing a 9-iron from the fairway at No. 18 for an eagle, Austin walked off with a 155.

"I hit one shot out of 155," he said. "If you're playing well, you can play it. I just played like a dog."

So did 16-year-old Derek Tolan, the youngest player in the field. He knew his chances of making the cut were slim but never expected to shoot an 88 Friday, leaving him at the bottom of the scoreboard with a 166.

Hey, at least things can't get much worse.

"It was probably the hardest round of golf I'll ever see in my life," said Tolan, a high school junior-to-be from Colorado. "It beat me up. Making the turn today, it was like, 'This course is killing me. No way I can play out here right now."'

Steady showers exaggerated the already brutal conditions: fairways that seemed to stretch for miles; knee-high rough better suited for a machete than a golf club; greens that somehow managed to stay hard and fast despite all the rain.

"When you have to hit every shot perfect, and then your grips are wet and there's nothing you can do about it, that's when I figured out, 'What am I doing out here?"' Tolan said.

He wasn't alone.