- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

TULSA, Okla. Doesn't anybody want to win this U.S. Open? After Tiger Woods began dropping out of contention last Friday, you would have thought the players would be crawling over one another to get to the trophy. So how are we to explain yesterday's developments, particularly the train wreck on the 72nd hole?
Strange, strange, strange and I don't mean Curtis.
At the start of the final round, a bunch of quality players guys like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and David Duval, none of whom has won a major seemed poised for their big breakthrough. But before long, each of them was leaking oil and looking for a Rest Area. Mickelson staggered in with a 75, Garcia with a 77 and Duval with a 74. A collective 16 over par for the three most talented players on the leader board … yikes.
At that point, it looked like the winner would be one of three men Retief Goosen, Mark Brooks or Stewart Cink. All of them held up remarkably well for most of the afternoon, avoiding major mistakes and holing crucial putts. But then they came to the 18th green with a chance to capture the prize and came completely unglued.
"I guess there must be a ghost around here," Brooks said. "I hear nobody who's won [a major] here has parred the last hole."
The ghost must have a cruel sense of humor. First Brooks 3-putted to drop out of the lead. Then Cink double-bogeyed the hole, missing an 18-inch comebacker that would have put him in today's playoff. And then Goosen, after hitting a fabulous 6-iron to 12 feet, proceeded to miss both that putt and a subsequent 20-incher that would have given him the title.
Is there a doctor in the house?
Never, perhaps, has there been such madness on the 72nd hole of the Open. And the madness may not be over. Brooks and Goosen, who finished at 4 under, will tee it up this morning to decide this thing. Hopefully, they can settle it in 18 holes, but you never know.
What a tournament this has been. You had Hale Irwin shooting a 67 in the first round. You had Goosen, a virtual unknown at the outset, leading from start to finish. You had Brooks, the '96 PGA champion, coming back from the dead. And you had an up-and-down, back-and-forth final day that was as thrilling as any in recent memory. (That is, if you could overlook the fact that the principals were Retief Goosen, Mark Brooks and Stewart Cink.)
It's hard to decide who to feel sorrier for, Goosen or Cink. After his second putt on 18 rolled past the cup, costing him the championship, Goosen squatted down to collect himself the way a boxer does when he has taken a low blow. He had botched, as Cink put it, "a gimme two-putt. Not only is that something that can wreck your confidence, it's pretty embarrassing [to do it] in a major championship."
Goosen put up a remarkably brave front afterward. "I haven't hit the ball all that great the past two days," he said. "It was my chipping and putting that saved me." Not this time, though. "I hit the first putt too hard through the break but I'm not sure what happened on the second one. I hit it just exactly the way I wanted to."
And what about poor Cink? After he missed the green on his approach shot and ran his 15-foot par putt just past the hole, "I had a hard time convincing myself the next putt meant anything," he said, because he didn't expect disaster to strike his playing partner, Goosen. "I used up a lot of emotional energy on that first putt and … felt a little shaky over the next one. It's hard to explain. I could have taken a little more time with it, I suppose, though it's not like I rushed it. I mean, I marked it [before putting again]."
It wasn't until after Goosen's catastrophe, he said, "that I realized that I had lost a chance to get in the playoff" by missing the 18-incher. Now that stings. "But something tells me if I'd made it, Retief wouldn't have had any trouble getting down in two."
Something tells him? What something? That Ghost of Southern Hills that Brooks referred to?
So we'll try again today, try to find somebody who wants to win the 101st U.S. Open. Brooks must feel like he just got a phone call from the governor, freeing him from the electric chair. "I had already packed up the stuff in my locker," he said. "I feel bad for [Goosen]. I had something like that happen to me in the ['95] British Open, when I double-bogeyed the 16th hole [and finished third]. That one could have ended up differently. But I'm sure he'll put his spikes on [this morning] and be ready to go."
Goosen had better be. They both had better be. This is the U.S. Open, and somebody has to win. It's in the rules somewhere.

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