Retief Goosen broke a three-year winless streak when he won the 2009 Transitions Championship on Innisbrook's Copperhead Course. It was Goosen's second PGA Tour win on the course. He also won the 2003 Chrysler Championship when it was a fall series event. Goosen, 41, went on to make 19 of 20 cuts last year, finish tied for fifth at the British Open and bank $3,232,650 to end up 11th on the money list. Goosen is currently playing in the WGC Match Play Championship in Arizona, where he easily beat Soren Hansen on Wednesday. When Goosen arrives in Palm Harbor next month, he will try to become the first three-time winner at Innisbrook. Goosen has also won two U.S. Open championships among his seven PGA Tour wins. The South African, who also has a home in Orlando, took some time before the Match Play Championship to talk about Tiger Woods, his shaky putting stroke, playing at Innisbrook and his winery, the Goose Wines.
Are things quieter than usual (at the WGC Match Play) without Tiger playing?
Actually, there are still a lot of people here …
When do you think Tiger will return?
Who knows? None of us really know. But if I had to make a guess, I'd say second half of the year sometime. Not the Masters (April 8-11). I'm thinking it will be around U.S. Open (in June) or maybe British Open (in July). I don't see it happening any time soon.
But you haven't talked to him …
No. I don't have any inside knowledge or anything.
Do you like playing in this match play format?
I do like match play. I like trying to match an opponent shot for shot. It's a challenge. And it's something different. It's nice to have a tournament like this during the season.
So far you have two top-10 finishes in three tournaments, although you did miss the cut last week at Pebble Beach. Is that an acceptable start for you or is there still work to do?
I started off playing pretty well in Hawaii. Then at Pebble Beach (AT&T Pro Am) I completely lost my confidence on the greens. Those poana greens, when they get bumpy, can be very tricky. I absolutely made nothing all week. I kind of lost my stroke. So I've been working very hard on my putting this week.
You're obviously coming back to Innisbrook to defend, but are you playing much leading up to the Transitions?
I'm going to be playing the two weeks before at the Honda (Classic in Palm Beach Gardens) and Doral (WGC CA Championship in Miami) and then come to Tampa for the Transitions and then up to Bay Hill (Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando) as well. It's going to be a four-week run for me, then a week off, and then the Masters. For me, I need to play. I've had enough time off. I've had five weeks off at the end of the year and then a week off next week.
You've been a pro for 20 years. Do you still get excited when January rolls around and a new season begins?
I do, but it is hard to leave South Africa. Sometimes it's hard to get yourself motivated, but I had a good time in Hawaii this year. It's a great place to start, that's for sure. The way I look at it, if I can get off to a good start then I can build on it for the rest of the year.
How much did the Transitions win turn your 2009 season around and make you believe you can still win in your 40s?
There are a number of golfers who are playing great golf in their 40s. You have to keep yourself in shape, and right now I think I am in good shape. For me, it's always been about putting. I wasn't putting very well leading up to the Transitions, but during that week it all fell into place. I was making putts and it gave me confidence for the rest of the year. It gave me something I could build on.
Do you still have the winery (the Goose Wines)?
We do. It's doing well right now. We're still trying to get it into the States. Getting that done is proving to be a rather tricky thing. But it's selling well in South Africa. We think we may have a distributor for the States and hopefully we can get it here soon.
Are you as competitive in the wine business as you are in golf?
I am. I want to make sure we have the best wine possible and that things are being done properly. I'm the same way in golf.