- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

The presence of Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh has created much of the buzz at this year’s Booz Allen Classic, which begins today at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

Meanwhile, Retief Goosen just goes about his business, which usually involves contending for titles. Goosen picked up U.S. Open victories in 2001 at Southern Hills and last year at Shinnecock Hills and will defend his Open title next week at Pinehurst No.2 in North Carolina.

The quiet South African, who is making his first Booz Allen appearance, is ranked fifth in the world and seems unruffled by the fame he has earned in the last four years.

“Golf-wise it’s changed my life with exemptions and sponsorships. Getting recognized around the golf course has made a big difference,” Goosen said. “Off the golf course, it really hasn’t really changed me much. Family-wise, it’s changed a lot. I’ve had two kids since then, so I’ve been changing a lot more nappies than any golf balls.”

Goosen’s game pretty much has remained the same, filled with accurate drives and solid putts. He missed the cut at the Byron Nelson, his last PGA Tour event, but he still has top-fives this year at the Match Play Championship, the Bay Hill Invitational and the Masters. That steadiness matches his personality, which seems perfectly suited for a pressure-filled tournament.

“He’s not jumping around, he’s not fist-pumping, he’s not doing all that,” Chris DiMarco said. “He’s just kind of Retief. I don’t want to say he’s a boring guy, but he plays boring golf. But he’s really good, and he doesn’t get enough credit for how good he is.”

DiMarco gets ready

Unlike many top players, DiMarco is a regular at events a week before a major — a strategy that has worked well recently.

DiMarco lost in a playoff to Vijay Singh at Whistling Straits in August’s PGA Championship and then fell in a memorable sudden-death battle with Tiger Woods at the Masters in April. That success indicates DiMarco, who has three career tour wins, is on the cusp of his first major victory.

“Losing in two playoffs the last two majors, I feel like I’m putting myself in position to win them,” DiMarco said. “I played exceptionally good golf both those weeks. If my game is there and I’m playing good golf again, I expect to be right up there.”

DiMarco, who finished tied for 10th in his last Booz Allen appearance in 2003, prefers getting in some work a week before a major because it places him in a competitive situation instead of on a range near his home. Congressional, a former and future U.S. Open site, should be enough of a pre-Open test for DiMarco.

“I’m going to try to be real precise with my irons and kind of work myself,” he said. “You’re just trying to build yourself up. Obviously, I’d like to win this week. Certainly the main goal this week right now is to win, but it’s also to get myself ready for next week.”

Course management

Sergio Garcia, who will play in his first Booz Allen, was impressed with his initial look at Congressional.

Garcia, ranked sixth, is beginning a three-week stretch after sitting out last week’s Memorial. The week after the U.S. Open, he will defend his Barclays Classic title at Westchester in Harrison, N.Y.

“I like the way they set it up,” said Garcia, who hadn’t turned pro when the U.S. Open was played at Congressional in 1997. “There’s a mix of some wide fairways and some pretty tight ones.”

Still, the course isn’t in perfect shape after a thunderstorm rolled through the area earlier this week. Late-afternoon rain is forecast for at least the next two days, which could leave the course a bit soft.

“It’s a shame that it’s not going to be playing fast and firm,” Garcia said. “It would be awesome to see this course playing that way.”

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