TWICE major winner Retief Goosen shrugged off a torrid session on the practice range to shoot a six-under 66 in the first round of the British Open yesterday.
The 46-year-old South African is without a victory since 2009, but showed few nerves as he mixed seven birdies with a solitary bogey on a day when the calm conditions and the soft and receptive greens led to a string of low scores.
“I hit the ball horribly on the driving range for some reason but once I got out on the course and started seeing and feeling the shots I needed, I hit it nicely.
“I was struggling with the right-to-left breeze on the range. I kept pulling everything left, so I was struggling to get the ball to start far enough right,” he said after finishing one shot behind early leader Dustin Johnson of the US.
Goosen booked his ticket to golf’s oldest major through prequalifying and is delighted to return after missing the event the last two years.
Meanwhile, a month on from his three-putt finish to the US Open at Chambers Bay, Johnson proved yesterday at St Andrews that he had quickly overcome one of the biggest last-hole letdowns in recent times.
His first round of 65 at the Open Championships gave him the lead in the clubhouse.
It was all a long way from the 18th at Chambers Bay where he missed a 12-foot eagle putt to finally win his first major title and then skewed a fourfooter coming back to force a playoff with Jordan Spieth.
The two were back in harness yesterday, exchanging banter and bagging the birdies that were up for grabs in the benign early conditions.
Asked if he still thought about what happened in Tacoma, Johnson said: “Well, you know, nothing bad happened at Chambers Bay, so I wasn’t disappointed, really.
“I played really well, did everything I was supposed to. I couldn’t control what the ball was doing on the greens there.
“There’s really no bad feelings from that, only good. I played really well and then it carried over to today [yesterday]. I played really well today [yesterday].”
Chambers Bay was not the first time Johnson has experienced major golf misery, having come close previously in all four of the Grand Slam tournaments.But each time, he says he has had no trouble in clearing the disappointment out of his mind.
The job on hand for Johnson is to follow up on his opening salvo and put himself in position to finally, at the age of 31, win the major everyone has been predicting he would do one day.
Helping him, he believes, is that he is playing with good friend Spieth again today when the worst of the weather is expected to sweep in from the North Sea and the fact that he has taken to playing links golf.
“I’ve played well in this tournament the last five years,” he said. “. . . You have to be very creative, to use your imagination a lot when you’re out there when the wind is blowing that hard.”