SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. - This time, Retief Goosen didn't need to make a 2-foot putt to win the U.S. Open. Nor did he need to go through a sleepless night before an 18-hole playoff or consult with a sports psychologist in his hotel room.
For Goosen, Shinnecock Hills didn't turn into Southern Hills revisited.
Goosen made a bunch of pressure putts down the stretch in yesterday's final round of the 104th Open and took advantage of one huge blunder by the competition - in this case a three-putt double bogey by Phil Mickelson on the par-3 17th hole - to win by two strokes.
Goosen shot 1-over-par 71 yesterday, and his four-round total of 4-under 276 was two shots better than Mickelson and five ahead of Jeff Maggert. The victory, worth $1.125 million, made the 35-year-old South African the 21st player to win more than one U.S. Open title.
Three years ago, Goosen won at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla., in an 18-hole playoff against Mark Brooks, one day after missing a short putt for par on the 18th hole that would have clinched the tournament.
"It wasn't any easier this time," Goosen said. "Obviously, this time, I knew that I could do it, and I've done it before. When [Mickelson] made that double bogey, it went my way. I wasn't letting my guard down. I was just trying to stay focused until we finished the tournament off. I knew what happened last time. It's not over till it's over."
The defeat ended Mickelson's pursuit of a half Grand Slam, something that certainly seemed possible when he took a one-stroke lead at 4-under with three birdies in four holes before the disaster on the par-3, where he put his tee shot into a bunker and then missed putts of 8 and 6 feet.
"It's just as disappointing as it was thrilling to win a Masters," Mickelson (71) said after finishing second in the Open for the third time in his career. "To come very close, to play so hard for 72 holes and play better than anybody but one guy is disappointing."
Mickelson's chances were seriously damaged with the double bogey, his second on a par-3 in as many days, and they all but disappeared when he hit his approach on the par-4 18th through the green and then narrowly missed about a 20-foot putt from off the green for birdie.
On the final hole, Goosen - playing in the last pair of the day, right behind Mickelson - only had to get the ball somewhere near the fairway and somewhere near the green. He did both. His drive on the 18th found the short rough, and his 9-iron approach from 153 yards settled just off the back right edge of the green. He hit a curling, 25-foot putt to about 4 feet below the cup, and then made the putt for par.
The fans surrounding the green screamed "Goooose!" as if they were calling for a former New York Yankees relief pitcher. It was sort of their way of paying the respect to Goosen that they had failed to do throughout the past two days, when it seemed most, if not all, were rooting for Mickelson.
"I didn't notice," Goosen joked of the pro-Mickelson crowd during a nationally televised interview on the 18th green shortly after the awards ceremony. "I knew it was going to come down to Ernie [Els] and Phil. Those are the two guys I had to beat. It's great to stand here with this trophy."
Els, who grew up playing junior golf in South Africa against Goosen, made things easier for his countryman and close friend by making double bogey on the opening hole to start a round of 10-over 80, the highest score by four strokes that the two-time Open and three-time major champion had ever shot in an Open.
In another regard, Els helped Goosen as well.
"I think it was probably easier playing with Ernie in a way today and not with Phil," Goosen said. "I think if I did play with him, it would have been a lot more going on around. Obviously, I got off to a great start and Ernie got off to a bad start and that sort of set the tone for his day."
With only one legitimate challenger in Mickelson, Goosen seemed to have the tournament in control when he birdied the par-3 11th hole and regained a three-stroke lead after Mickelson bogeyed the par-4 12th. But the memories of Southern Hills started coming back for Goosen and those of this year's Masters came back for Mickelson.
By making those three birdies in a stretch of four holes beginning on the par-4 13th, Mickelson charged into the lead just as he did at Augusta. After Goosen tied him with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 16th, Mickelson put his tee shot on the 17th into a bunker left of the green.
"I actually didn't hit a bad shot on 17," Mickelson said.
But he was a little too aggressive out of the bunker and left himself with a downhill 8-footer for par. He said the wind kicked up and took the ball farther past the hole than he anticipated. After pushing his first putt, he then pulled his second, from about 6 feet away.
Still, given the fact that his final round of 1-over 71 was more than seven shots better than the day's average and equal to Goosen, Mickelson seemed at peace with what transpired.
The difference yesterday was Goosen putted better than anybody else, taking only 24 putts, which included 10 one-putt greens, five straight in one stretch of the back nine.
"Probably Southern Hills I was putting just as good, if not better," Goosen said. "But that's what you need to do at these tournaments. ... The way the course was playing, it's important to save pars, and I kept telling myself, `Keep playing for pars and you can win this event,' and it turned out that way."