Retief Goosen clinches second Major title
South Africa's Retief Goosen held his nerve to clinch the U.S. Open for a second time, edging out Phil Mickelson by two shots with a closing one-over-par 71 on Sunday.
The laidback Goosen, winner in 2001 at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, finished at four-under 276 on a day when the average final-round score was 78.7 in brutal conditions at Shinnecock Hills.
U.S. Masters champion Mickelson, urged on by raucous New York galleries on a windswept and sunny afternoon, completed a matching 71 for his third runner-up spot in the last six U.S. Opens.
Goosen led by two going into the final day but was overhauled by Mickelson over the closing stretch, the left-handed American moving one stroke clear with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16.
But Mickelson, bidding to become the sixth player to win the first two majors of the year, immediately fell back, running up a double-bogey at the par-three 17th after three-putting from five feet.
Goosen, playing in the group behind, restored his two-shot advantage with a 12-foot birdie putt on 16 and parred the final two holes to seal the title.
"That was tough and I made a few good pars coming in, which you need to do in the U.S. Open," the 35-year-old Goosen told reporters.
"When Phil started making a good run on the back nine, I knew I had to hang in there," added the South African, who needed only 24 putts on Sunday, including 11 one-putts.
A disappointed Mickelson said: "I don't know what to say. I played some of the best golf of my life and still couldn't shoot par.
"At 17, I hit an easy putt, because I knew it was quick, but it still shouldn't have gone six, seven feet by. It was downwind and, when the wind gets a hold on these greens, it keeps going."
American Jeff Maggert finished third at one-over 281 after carding a 72, while 2003 U.S. Masters champion Mike Weir (74) of Canada and Japan's Shigeki Maruyama (76) were a further three shots back in a tie for fourth.
However world number two Ernie Els, joint second overnight with Mickelson, produced four double-bogeys on his way to an 80, his worst score in a U.S. Open, and a tie for ninth at seven over.
World number one Tiger Woods, who began nine shots off the lead, battled to a six-over 76 and a share of 17th.
A mix of five bogeys, a double-bogey and a birdie at the last left him at 10-over 290 as he narrowly avoided returning his worst round at a U.S. Open. His career low was a 77 in the third round at Oakland Hills playing as an amateur in 1996.
"This is not the way it's supposed to be played," said Woods.
"The way the golf course was set up was great for the first two days, and yesterday was tough, but today it just got away from them (organisers). That golf course got out of control."
The firm and fast-running Shinnecock layout provided an extreme test for the 66-strong field as the blustery, westerly winds began to freshen.
American Billy Mayfair ballooned to a 19-over 89 to finish at 30-over 310, while compatriot Kevin Stadler slumped to a 15-over 85 for a 27-over total of 307.
Australia's Robert Allenby was the only player to return a level-par 70 on Sunday, three birdies and three bogeys lifting him into a tie for seventh with American Steve Flesch at six-over 286. Fred Funk (77) of the U.S. was alone in sixth on 285.
The drying conditions forced officials to suspend play for 10 minutes in the morning to allow greenkeeping staff to water the problem seventh hole after the first two pairs had gone through.
The renowned 'Redan Hole' was then syringed with a light spray in between each group.
Three of the first four golfers to play the hole ran up triple-bogey sixes there, with the rock-hard green almost impossible to hold.
Of those, Stadler faced a two-foot downhill putt for par which he missed, only to see his ball roll 20 yards off the green into a bunker.